Askia Muhammad | 6/1/2011, 5:15 p.m.
Bibi and Barry
The recent visit by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu to Washington and his White House visit with President Barack "Barry" Obama made for an interesting mating ritual, if you will.
The "special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel was reaffirmed, but not before some icy stares and sharp words were exchanged between the two leaders.
Netanyahu has some distinct advantages. He is fluent in English, while Obama speaks little, if any Hebrew. In some American circles Netanyahu is more popular than the president. Obama's State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress received only 25 standing ovations, while Netanyahu's speech before the same body received 29 such rounds of applause.
It's kind of reminiscent of President Herbert Hoover's standing in 1930. When baseball legend George Herman "Babe" Ruth was asked by a reporter what he thought of his yearly salary of $80,000 (equivalent to $1.05 million in current dollars) being more than President Hoover's $75,000. The Bambino responded: "I know, but I had a better year than Hoover."
Obviously Bibi thinks he's having a better year than Barry.
Obama stepped into it when--in his speech that was ostensibly addressed to the Muslim world, two years after his 2009 Cairo address--he described what he believes to be the path to peace between Israel, Palestine and her other Arab neighbors: "We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states. The Palestinian people must have the right to govern themselves and reach their full potential in a sovereign and contiguous state."
International law recognizes Israel's pre-1967 borders, not the current expansionist state. The legal principle is that in the civilized world, countries do not gain territory by military conquest, as Israel has done in the West Bank (of the Jordan River) and in Jerusalem. That's why the disputed land is referred to as "the occupied territories."
The next day in their meeting, Netanyahu reacted angrily, to Obama's effrontery, bluntly upbraiding the U.S. leader at the White House no less, with a stern rebuke, declaring that the 1967 borders are "indefensible," and "it's not going to happen."
That is what's known as "the tail wagging the dog."
In that scenario it is difficult to picture which state is the client of whom, and which state gives $3 billion a year in aid and billions more in loans which are always forgiven, to whom.
Under the present circumstances, I believe it would be easier to catch a leprechaun than it would be to secure peace between Israel and her neighbors--unless there emerges some Palestinian or Arab transformational figure who can convince his people that they should happily agree to permanent second-class status.
When Israeli leaders say that they don't have a "reliable partner" in the peace process, they mean there is no one who is willing to trade the rights of his or her people, in return for the little or nothing he or she would receive in exchange for agreeing to the Faustian bargain.