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Clinton(s) and Israel

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

Clinton_Netanyahu_Abbas_Mitchell

As we are fast approaching the November general election, it seems clear to me – I’ll bet whatever little money I have on this outcome – that unless an unforeseen event/disaster would to occur, Hillary Clinton will win the election and will become the next American President. It is time therefore to try to assess what shape the relation between the new administration and Israel will be, and what change Hillary Clinton might bring to this traditionally strong alliance; an alliance that has been shaken and hurt quite a bit throughout the Obama administration, but still withstood the constant struggle with the Netanyahu government.

This consequence was as result, mostly, of the different personalities of the two leaders, and their different outlook on the political international arena. Obama, essentially so, is a peace maker. A compromiser by nature. He won the election in large part on the fact that he objected to the war in Iraq, which Netanyahu supported, and had promised to do anything in his power to end that war, as well as the Afghanistan war, and to disengage America from the conflicts in the Middle East. These were his main objectives, and he has been mostly successful in enforcing this outcome; albeit with some troubling results, and ongoing conflicts.

Netanyahu, on the other hand, who has supported the Republicans in the American Congress and elections, as well as in all other issues throughout the Obama administration’s years in power – at times quite vocally and outrageously – is a different sort of a leader. To begin with, he is not a peacemaker; never was, never will. Peace with the Palestinians, resolving that conflict, is the last thing on his mind. Politically, unlike Obama – very much in the vein of Putin and Erdogan though — all he’s concern with is staying in power, and like these two leaders, if his opponents – remember Rabin? – would have to die and be buried because of that hunger for power, so be it. Because of this, and because of Obama’s preoccupation with Iraq and Afghanistan – but it must be said here, also because Netanyahu is a much more experienced leader — he was able to win most of his fights with Obama, and handily so I might add, except the last one concerning the Iran nuclear deal, in which Obama finally showed some muscles and guts in his fight against the Netanyahu-AIPAC-Republican-Adelson coalition, and has won that battle.

But Hillary Clinton is a different egg. To begin with, personality wise, she seems to be tougher than Obama, and her origin is in fact as a Republican by youth, nurture and maybe by inclination, which all point to personality traits similar to those of Netanyahu. It makes her, therefore, more capable of understanding his ruthlessness, and if found in a clash with him, not to tend to back down so easily as Obama has done. Even more so, she brings to the table her experience not only in the international political arena as a whole, but in the Middle East and with Netanyahu in particular. From the failed Sharm el-Sheikh peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians in September 2010, which she had chaired, and which Netanyahu had derailed at the end with the resumption of settlement activity, to her famous clash with him on new housing units to be built in East Jerusalem (her infamous telephone conversation with him was well documented here on this blog on March 17, 2010*), to her instrumental tough stance that brought about a ceasefire in the belligerence escalation with Hamas in Gaza in November 2012. In short, she knows what a tough cookie Netanyahu is, and won’t easily be fooled by him**.

The big question is, would she invest the effort, time and resources in bringing an end to that ageless conflict. I’d say on record here that I think the chances are greater than in the Obama administration that she would. For a number of reasons. First, she is not carrying the burden, and necessity of putting an end to wars with direct American participation. She will be in charge of somehow defusing the turmoil that the Middle East is today. The burden that she carries is her support of the Iraq War in the Senate, and therefore bringing peace to the region might be of added personal challenge and importance to her. Not to mention that the need, internationally, to conquer terrorism and bring stability to this combustible region is of the utmost importance.

Whether she sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as some do, as the cause, or the seed of all the troubles in the region, I do not know. But it is fair to assume that at the very least she sees the enormous benefits – to America, to the region, to the world – from resolving this issue. It is my opinion that she is more quipped mentally, and much more experienced than Obama was to succeed there. Even internally, she might be better situated. She might be less afraid than Obama was of the wrath of the Jewish lobby for one; for second, better situated to deal with hostile Congress; and for third, more concern with the liberal, progressive Sanders-Warren led wing of the Democratic party, urging her to push ahead, and bring about an acceptable solution there. (Somehow, it might even affect a political change in Israel itself finally. Though that’s a different story.)

But here’s the kicker, my friends: Bill Clinton. It is my hope, and prediction too – at least by way of a reasonable possibility – that he not only will influence his wife on the matter, that’s a given after all, but that he will jump right in at an hour of need to help secure the peace. Remember, he was probably closer than any other American leader to bring about a resolution to the conflict with the Camp David Summit of 2000. If not the timing being very close to the end of his second term, and the vise of Yasser Arafat on the one side, who couldn’t see what a great opportunity it was for him and for his people, and Arik Sharon on the other side, who seized the day in Jerusalem in order to sabotage that agreement, it might have been a reality by now. Such a development would be Bill Clinton’s big chance; a déjà vu if ever there was one; for peace and for the Nobel peace prize as well. With the backing of his wife, he just might make it happen.

* Exclusive Transcript of Clinton and Netanyahu phone call Posted on March 17, 2010

** “In March 2009 US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Israel. She said that Israeli settlements and demolition of Arab homes in East Jerusalem were “unhelpful” to the peace process. Clinton also voiced support for the establishment of a Palestinian state.” Wikipedia

*** The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

Moral Cancer

timesofisrael.com

timesofisrael.com

Following “Operation Protective Edge” in August 2014, the last war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, I pointed out the excessive force (l was not alone in doing so, for sure) the Israeli army had used, and the massive civilian death it has caused. For that, here and elsewhere, I received my fair amount of criticism. When I specifically pointed out the butchering of four innocent Palestinian kids playing soccer on the beach by an Israeli army boat, using a missile to slaughter them, I was called names, since of course – especially in the eyes of some Jewish Americans – the Israeli army can do no wrong. Period. It’s simply impossible. I felt kind of good, admittedly, when the Jewish presidential candidate Bernie Sanders had made the same argument, even though I’m a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton (you can read my blogpost about it, “Evolution not Revulsion,” from February of this year). But now I really am feeling vindicated, what with the decision by the IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot to do away with the infamous Hannibal Directive.

Let me explain. The Hannibal Directive is not the cause of all evils, nor is it solely to blame for some of the ills that had inflicted the IDF in the last decade. But it is symptomatic; it represents these ills appropriately. For those of you not familiar with the Hannibal Directive, here’s a summation about it as reported lately in The Telegraph: “The ‘Hannibal Directive’ was established in the 1980s and has long been one of Israel’s signature military doctrines. But it has also been a target for serious criticism by human rights groups and a spark for ethical debates within Israeli society. The directive is meant to stop Israel’s enemies from using captured soldiers as a bargaining chip and calls for troops to open fire when one of their own is being captured even if it causes the death of their comrade. Critics argue that the vague policy is interpreted by soldiers as a justification for indiscriminate shooting and massive civilian casualties.”

Which I believe was actually the case in that Gaza operation. I.e., the “justification for indiscriminate shooting and massive civilian casualties.” And now we have Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, and his second in command General Yair Golan, actually agreeing with that conclusion. Soldiers and commanders in the IDF have become too trigger-happy, and too blasé about human life, especially Arab human life. Before going to that same Gaza operation, there was a battalion commander, and an army rabbi, who actually encouraged soldiers to kill Arabs, no matter whether the battlefield was actually dictating it. It was, supposedly, a “Mitzvah.” And in that operation, as reported lately in Haaretz “… the incident that seemingly convinced the chief of staff once and for all of the need for change happened on ‘Black Friday’ – the battle in Rafah in the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge in August 2014, during the course of which Hamas captured the dead body of Lt. Hadar Goldin. Some of the measures taken during the battle could indicate that at the junior command level, there was a very broad interpretation of the protocol, contrary to the written text.”

It is no wonder then that that semi-war gave prominence to a protest group such as “Breaking The Silence.” A group of soldiers and commanders in the IDF, active since the Second Intifada, who participated in that operation and came out of it traumatized not so much by the war itself, but by the lack of moral conduct, and moral fortitude – as it had used to be when I was a soldier and commander in the IDF – within the ranks and files within the army. No wonder it had led lately to an Israeli soldier taking the law into his own hands and executing in cold blood a helpless Palestinian, indeed one who had just participated in a terrorist attempt, lying on the ground wounded. It was a murder, execution-style, getting applauds from, you guessed it, the fervent religious right in Israel.

There were other incidents, too numerous to count here. Recently, as reported again in Haaretz, “… comments Golan (Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan, H.D.) made recently on a military forum concerning the need to reduce harm to enemy civilians was widely interpreted (in synagogue bulletins, H.D.) as meaning that he was indifferent to the lives of Israeli soldiers. The headline was unambiguous: ‘Moral cancer in the body of the IDF.’” Which ‘Moral Cancer,’ I wonder? In what part of that body, exactly?

It seems there is a growing battle going on in Israel in regard to the moral core values of the Israeli Army. A battle between the old guard, the upper echelon of commanders – a battle which apparently brought about the dismissal of Moshe Ya’alon as Defense Minister – and the fervent, religious right, representing the most extremist elements in the Israeli Army and society. For whom the old saying that “a good Arab is a dead Arab,” hold truth. This is a major struggle, in which the cancellation of the Hannibal Directive is but the first shot. A small step in the right direction. It is not only a battle on the soul, the character and future of the Israeli Army alone, but of the country itself.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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