Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Leader Of The Opposition

Secretary Clinton is tying up our traffic with her motorcade, but is otherwise getting things going here. She might have announced, as some of us had hoped, that she was reviving the 2000 "Clinton parameters"--and has not. But she's done the next best thing, stating four positions in 24 hours, each important in themselves, but also code every Israeli understands, policy positions that directly oppose what Benjamin Netanyahu (and the rightist parties bound for his coalition) ran on.

First, Clinton said that the immediate priority is to get to a cease-fire in Gaza, and she's helped raise $4.4 billion for Gaza reconstruction. She and Obama have also reportedly received a letter from Hamas through Senator Kerry, and has been quietly encouraging talks that might lead to a "unity" Palestinian government. Clinton is, appropriately, condemning the continuing missile attacks, but has also emphasized the need to get the border open. Translation: America will not support a new attack on Gaza, ostensibly for the purpose of changing the regime there.

Second, Clinton's announced that American diplomats were going to proceed to Damascus, and she's emphasized the need to create a regional alliance to counter a possible Iranian threat. Not coincidentally, while she's been in Jerusalem, President Obama's letter to Russia's Medvedev (suggesting a shelving of missile defense in return for help on Iranian nukes) was leaked. Translation: America will deal with Iran diplomatically and will not tolerate any preemptive military strike by Israel.

Third, Clinton contradicted Netanyahu's idea that an economic peace could lay the ground for a political settlement some time in the future, emphasizing (correctly,) that there can be no economic take-off in Palestine without a political settlement--also that Abbas' Palestinian Authority, weakened as it is, is peace's "partner." Translation: America will not tolerate delay in pursuing a two-state solution; that the inertia of the status quo, in effect, plays right into the hands of Hamas, on the one hand, and the settlers, on the other.

Fourth, and perhaps most daring, Clinton announced American opposition to planned house demolitions in Jerusalem as contravening Senator Mitchell's Roadmap--demolitions (as I've written about before) in Silwan. Translation: America regards East Jerusalem as part of a future Palestinian state, and further Israeli efforts at prejudicing Arab residency in Jerusalem as incendiary.

CLINTON'S MEETING WITH Tzipi Livni was, in contrast, all smiles and winks. Livni's Kadima is not the party of peace, exactly, but it is the party of America--of continuing globalization--of preventing Israel's political isolation. In Tel-Aviv, centrist Kadima and the parties to its left defeated the rightists by a margin of about 60 to 40 percent. In Jerusalem, the rightist parties defeated the center by a margin of about 80 to 20 percent. This is the fight; the rest is commentary.

Incidentally--and apropos commentary--the word "rightist" in this post (and in almost every other analysis of the situation) can be a little misleading. Some of my friends in America asked me if it does not feel like 2004, when Bush was narrowly reelected. A better (though hardly perfect) comparison would be to America electing in 1964--after the Kennedy assassination, as the Cold War and Vietnam intensified, and before the country was chastened by the civil rights movement--a government led by Richard Nixon, with a cabinet of George Wallace, Curtis LeMay, Billy Graham, and, strangely, Cardinal Spellman. Oh, and there is no Warren Court because there is no real Bill of Rights, the subject of a future post.

Anyway, Israel is a city-state, not a super-power. And the leader of Netanyahu's opposition is now in Washington.