If you think comedy is dead, just read Benjamin Netanyahu’s latest proposals regarding a Palestinian state and try to keep a straight face. “Let us begin peace negotiations immediately without preconditions,” says the comedian, and then proceeds to state the following preconditions: Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to build a homeland, must be allowed to continue; Jerusalem must be declared the capital of Israel; refugees must be denied the right of return; and last but not least, the new Palestinian state is to be demilitarized and denied its own airspace rights. Is it possible for us to ascertain what the Israeli prime minister was trying to accomplish by using those two words, “without preconditions”?
Well, let’s try. What about setting more obstacles in the path of an already stymied peace process? Or leaving nothing to the Palestinians to negotiate about? Or putting the Palestinians in a situation where he looks like he offered something, and they said no? What is very clear is that Netanyahu rejects the two-state solution and is telling Obama and his crew to go to hell.
What is also rather funny is the Obama administration’s response. “The Netanyahu government took a big step forward in acknowledging for the first time the need for a two-state solution,” says a White House flunky. The mind reels. Do they really think we are that dumb? Does language mean anything, or is it just an excuse for blowing smoke? The administration’s response makes Bill Clinton’s question regarding the meaning of the word is sound Socratic.
I had the bad luck to run into Netanyahu one day and saw firsthand his modus operandi. It was about nine years ago, in New York, and I had gone to see a revival of 42nd Street on Broadway with Gianni Agnelli, the late CEO of Fiat. Gianni had a restless nature and would only sit through half a show. Naturally, he had procured the two best seats in the house, front and center. As the curtain was about to go up, an usher arrived waving her flashlight and asked us to move. Behind her waiting impatiently was the boorish Netanyahu and some tart who was not his wife. Gianni was ready to stand up when I pulled him back. I looked at the tickets and made sure we were sitting in the right seats. Then I gave the finger to the three of them and told them in no uncertain terms where they should go. The usher took umbrage, but the then-ex-prime minister of Israel recoiled. The show began without incident.
During the interval Gianni had had enough. As we got up to leave I saw the Israeli freeloader ready to pounce on our seats. So I bid Agnelli goodbye, told him the show was too good to miss, and remained in my seat. The one next to mine stayed unoccupied. End of the attempt by the bully-boy to take what was not his.
Which brings me to some good news. Israel’s foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, a Moldovan thug who makes Netanyahu seem to possess plenipotentiary dignity by comparison, is using his access in Russia to suggest that Israel might look to Moscow for support and become less dependent on the United States. If true, it is the best news for Uncle Sam since Cornwallis’s surrender at Yorktown. Lieberman is the man who has gone on record saying all Palestinians should be ethnically cleansed to Jordan, and that Israeli Arabs should take an oath of loyalty to the Israeli state or lose their citizenship. He used to be a bouncer in a nightclub. Now he holds the office once held by Abba Eban. Unlike wine, Israel does not improve with age.
But the comedy goes on. Israel has been playing Uncle Sam like the proverbial fiddle from the start. The decision whether to build and how much goes to the heart of the tensions between Obama’s administration and that of the comedian Netanyahu. Or so says the New York Times. In actual terms, Israel has been illegally building since 1967, and more than 500,000 settlers are determined not to be evicted but to push further and deeper into the West Bank. With the singular exception of Bush 41, instead of addressing the root cause of Palestinian anguish—occupation, occupation, occupation—every U.S. president has focused almost entirely on the “terrorist” actions carried out by Palestinians against Israeli civilians.
O terrorism, what crimes are committed against thy name! Israel has violated every article of the Geneva Convention since 1967. Thousands killed, hundreds of thousands swearing revenge, and millions in an humanitarian crisis. Since her inception Israel has taken 78 percent of Palestine. If any other country in the world had been guilty of such behavior, the United States would have long ago labeled it a terrorist regime, and almost universal condemnation would have followed. Instead, because of the power of the Israeli Lobby in Washington, no American politician, and very few journalists, give anything but the Israeli view of events. Let’s face it: The powerful Israeli lobby runs U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East, and if anyone believes that Obama and Rahm Emanuel are about to read the riot act to Netanyahu and his gang, he is invited to my annual lunch for Elvis Presley, who is alive and well, and sings some golden oldies for me and my guests.