In 2001, Bibi Netanyahu paid a condolence call on a group of Israeli settlers in the village of Ofra, widows whose husbands had been killed in the Intifada: the videotaped conversation has just been leaked, and broadcast by Israel’s Channel 10, and it is a blockbuster. At one point, Bibi is telling the widows that the Palestinians “think they will break us,” but don’t worry, ladies, Bibi has a plan:
“To hit them. Not just one blow, but blows that are so painful that the price will be too heavy to be borne. The price is not too heavy to be borne, now. A broad attack on the Palestinian Authority. To bring them to the point of being afraid that everything is collapsing…
“Woman: Wait a moment, but then the world will say ‘how come you’re conquering again?’
“Netanyahu: The world won’t say a thing. The world will say we’re defending.
“Woman: Aren’t you afraid of the world, Bibi?
“Netanyahu: Especially today, with America. I know what America is. America is something that can easily be moved. Moved to the right direction.”
A child speaks up, and, surprisingly articulate, avers: “They say they’re for us, but, it’s like…”
Yes, even the children are little ideologues. Today that boy is a teenager on the verge of adulthood, and likely a fervent supporter of Israel’s ultra-rightist government, led by Bibi, who, back then, quickly assured him: “They won’t get in our way.” The child, hardliner that he was and no doubt still is, seemed doubtful: “On the other hand,” the kid ventured, “if we do some something, then they…”
That’s when Bibi really let his hair down:
“So let’s say they say something. So they said it! They said it! 80% of the Americans support us. It’s absurd. We have that kind of support…. Look. That administration [Clinton] was extremely pro-Palestinian. I wasn’t afraid to maneuver there. I was not afraid to clash with Clinton.”
Of course he wasn’t, because he knew he’d win, what with the Republicans in Congress passing resolutions unconditionally supporting the Israelis and AIPAC and the rest of the Lobby going all out to mobilize their fifth column against Oslo and the very idea of a rapprochement. Oslo was a dagger placed against the throat of the hard-line Likud movement, which explicitly embraces the rather nutty idea of a “Greater Israel,” and there was no way Netanyahu or his party could accept it without betraying who and what they were and are. So when one of the women denounced the Accords as “a disaster,” Bibi agrees with her — and takes “credit” for neutering them:
“What were the Oslo Accords? The Oslo Accords, which the Knesset signed, I was asked, before the elections: ‘Will you act according to them?’ and I answered: ‘yes, subject to mutuality and limiting the retreats.’ ‘But how do you intend to limit the retreats?’ ‘I’ll give such interpretation to the Accords that will make it possible for me to stop this galloping to the ’67 [armistice] lines.’ How did we do it?”
Easy: the Accords had a loophole big enough to drive an IDF tank through, premising the handover of “land for peace” on the condition that the land in question encompassed neither settlements nor military sites, as Netanyahu explained to his adoring fans:
“No one said what defined military sites. Defined military sites, I said, were security zones. As far as I’m concerned, the Jordan Valley is a defined military site.
“Woman: Right [laughs]..
“Netanyahu: … How can you tell. How can you tell?”
Bibi goes on to boast of how he stood up to Clinton, insisting that it would be the Israelis, and not anyone else, who defined where and what was a “military site.” When the US balked, Bibi refused to sign on to the Hebron Agreement, stopping the peace process in its tracks: “Why does this matter? Because at that moment I actually stopped the Oslo Accord.”
The settler comes back at him, however, interrupting Bibi’s self-congratulatory rapture by reminding him of Hebron, and other concessions embodied in the Accord. Netanyahu’s answer sums up the current position of his government. He cites his father (“Not exactly a dove, as they say”) who advised him:
“It would be better to give two percent than to give a hundred percent. And that’s the choice here. You gave two percent and in that way you stopped the withdrawal. Instead of a hundred percent. The trick is not to be there and be broken. The trick is to be there and pay a minimal price.”
This limns the current state of the current political dialogue in the Jewish state: the debate is between those who want 98 percent and those who demand 100 percent. (The only difference today, as opposed to 2001, is that the latter seem to have the upper hand: witness the rise of Avigdor Lieberman and his party of nutcases, who are the Israeli equivalent of Al-Qaeda.)
Justin Raimondo [send him mail] is editorial director of Antiwar.com and is the author of An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard and Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement.