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Short-term fixes led to election victory, now to repair the damage

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November 24, 2016 23:25

The bridges back to a working relationship to the White House and the Mukataa are not burned. Damaged yes, but not irreparably. Why? Because Benjamin Netanyahu's Congress speech, and carefully worded ruling out of a Palestinian state were pre-election, and we are now post-election.

The two issues are linked. President Obama is seething over the Congressional speech, while two-state solution supporters are in despair over Netanyahu's remarks on Palestinian statehood.

Neither bridge can be repaired so long as these comments are not, in time honoured politician style, "clarified". With two days to go to the vote, a seemingly desperate Netanyahu told Israeli website NRG: "I think anyone who goes to create a Palestinian state today and turns over land, is turning over land that will be used as a launching ground for attacks by Islamist extremists against the State of Israel."

He went on to say that if he were Prime Minister, a Palestinian state would not be created.

The key word here is "today" and it was not included in all of the English language reporting of the event.

The interview, on a website owned by American billionaire and Likud supporter Sheldon Adelson, was used to take support away from the Jewish Home party, and to dissuade security-minded but wavering voters from going over to Zionist Unity. It was a short-term fix for an immediate problem - the poll numbers.

The use of "today" appears a longer-term tactic designed for the post-vote era. It gives a politician of his verbal dexterity, indeed slipperiness, enough wiggle room.

He can concoct another form of words in the next few weeks clarifying that he meant the "current" situation, and that if a "genuine partner comes proffering the hand of peace" then he will extend the hand of friendship.

If such a sentence comes from his lips it will not change the mind of critics such as Obama's former senior advisor David Axelrod, who said Bibi had engaged in "shameful eleventh-hour demagoguery". Nor is Obama about to invite him round to the White House for tea and biscuits.

However, Obama still has 671 days left in office and he, President Abbas, and Netanyahu all need a working relationship for a variety of reasons.

Without clarification of his remarks, Netanyahu risks his fourth term coinciding with a third intifada, as an increasingly desperate Palestinian population gives up on politics.

He also risks going to war with the White House when what he really fears is war with Iran.

November 24, 2016 23:25

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