Akiva Eldar
March 22, 2011 - 12:00am

The attack by the allies on Muammar Gadhafi's forces, with the Arab League's encouragement, should be reminding Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the Western-Arab attack on Iraq at the beginning of 1991. The price tag the Arabs showed the (Republican) American president, George Bush the elder, for their support in the war against a member of the Arab league was the dragging of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir to an international peace conference in Madrid. Bush demanded of Shamir that he choose between expanding the settlements in the territories and a reduction in American aid.

Netanyahu supported Shamir's decision to try to circumvent the White House and get the guarantees for immigration absorption from Congress without stopping the Jewish construction beyond the Green Line (the pre-Six-Day War border) for even a single moment. This ended with a defeat in the U.S. Congress and after that a defeat in the elections in Israel.

The day after the military operation in Libya, U.S. President Barack Obama will have a hard time explaining to the Arabs why he is a big hero regarding an Arab leader who oppresses his people, at a time when he is helping a Jewish leader who is stealing land from members of the Arab people and is thumbing his nose at America.

The American involvement in Libya will also make it difficult for Obama to thwart the United Nations' recognition of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders this coming September. Netanyahu is again enlisting the Republican majority in Congress, mainly members of Sarah Palin's camp, but Congress has no authority to intervene in decisions involving votes at the UN. Even in the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pro-Israel lobbying organization in Washington, they certainly understand it isn't worth their while to cause the Jews to be those who forced the United States to be the only country in the world (perhaps in addition to Micronesia) to vote against giving independence to the Palestinians.

The only way for Obama to spare himself the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea is to reconnect Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu. In order for Abbas to suspend the move for recognition at the UN and agree to renew the negotiations on a permanent status agreement, Netanyahu will have to utter, with his own mouth, the magic words: "The agreement will be based on the borders of June 4, 1967." If the prime minister doesn't promise that this key sentence will appear in his second Bar-Ilan speech, he will get it in Obama's second Cairo speech. And just as Libya isn't going to be the same Libya, Cairo obviously will not be the same Cairo. Only Jerusalem remains the same Jerusalem, until it steps too hard on the blisters in Washington.

Teaching them peace

In the context of his fight against Palestinian incitement against Israel, Netanyahu told the mourning Fogel family that "they are murdering and we are building." This, of course, is not incitement against the entire Palestinian population. And how are we building trust with our neighbors? Machsom Watch volunteers have documented in words and pictures the scenes at the homes of the village of Awarta adjacent to Itamar, which was honored on the day after the murder with a visit from Israel Defense Forces soldiers: crushed furniture, smashed door locks, pulverized electrical appliances, broken walls and contents of cupboards strewn everywhere mixed with remains of food and excrement. A number of inhabitants have complained of thefts of jewelry and cash.

For four days the village was under curfew and all the entrances to it were blocked. Hundreds of soldiers invaded all the houses, put the men aged 15 to 55 up against the wall, cuffed their hands, stripped them and conducted body searches on them. More than 50 men were taken away under arrest. During the course of all this, settlers from Itamar entered the village and right before the soldiers' eyes hurled stones at the houses, accompanying this with cries of "Death to the Arabs." Three homes were damaged and in a number of courtyards locks on well covers were broken open and water spilled out everywhere.

Upon the soldiers' exit from the village, the settlers invaded the property of one of the inhabitants, uprooted 120 olive trees and with the help of bulldozers flattened the land and paved an access road from Itamar to the new outpost they established there, and another road in the direction of the road leading to the settlement of Elon Moreh. All this on lands of the village, of which the inhabitants publicly condemned the murder in Itamar. All this under the open eyes of IDF soldiers and Civil Administration inspectors.

The Israeli media call pogroms like this a "price tag." Like the tags on the vegetable stand at the grocery store. "These claims are not known," the IDF spokesman has informed Haaretz in reply. "The IDF detail that acted only in the village of Awarta apprehended a number of suspects in the murder at Itamar and confiscated dozens of weapons. Representatives of the civil administration who accompanied the force maintained continuous communication with the population of the village. The IDF urges inhabitants who feel they have been done an injustice to submit a complaint via the relevant agencies including the investigative military police."

Since 1998 there have been four incidents of murder in the area of Itamar and the trail led to the settlement and its surroundings. The IDF did not impose a curfew on the settlement nor did it settle into the inhabitants' homes. In only one case (Gur Hamel, who smashed in the head of an elderly Palestinian man) was the murderer caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. In the other cases no one was arrested, or the suspects were released for lack of evidence or the accused disappeared without a trace.

Apropos Netanyahu's campaign against Palestinian incitement, it is worth noting that the "incitement index" monitored at the Prime Minister's Office, which was published the day after the murder at Itamar, in fact shows a drop in the extent of incitement during this past year. Here is a selection of quotations from the PMO's website: "The final weighted score for this quarter [the last in 2010] was a bit lower than the same quarter last year and is the lowest among the five quarterly indices thus far ... For the most part no cases of explicit incitement to violence were found from religious sources."


American Task Force on Palestine - 1634 Eye St. NW, Suite 725, Washington DC 20006 - Telephone: 202-262-0017