This is a Fine Mess Netanyahu has Gotten Himself Into This Time
By Charley Reese
of The Sentinel Staff
Published in The Orlando Sentinel, October 16, 1997
To use police slang, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a goof.
Look at the absurd position he has gotten himself into. While railing at Yasser Arafat to put Hamas leaders into jail, Netanyahu is releasing Hamas leaders from Israeli jails.
In fact, Netanyahu has given Hamas such a great victory that Arafat now has no choice but to accept Hamas as a partner.
Netanyahu shot himself in the foot by dispatching a team of five assassins into Jordan with orders to kill a Hamas leader. The assassins botched it. Two were arrested, and three fled ignominiously into the Israeli embassy. To get them back, Netanyahu had to agree to release the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas, Ahmed Yassin, and several dozen other Palestinians.
Netanyahu's decision was dumb for several reasons:
1. Sending assassins to kill political opponents is state-sponsored terrorism even if the Clinton administration is too gutless to say so. It was an Israeli assassination of another Hamas leader that set off a string of suicide bombings. It's hard to purport to be against terrorism while practicing terrorism.
2. Even if the hit had been successful, it would put King Hussein, Israel's most critical ally, into an untenable position. Hussein staked his all by signing a peace treaty with Israel, and Netanyahu rewarded him by exporting Israeli terrorism to the streets of Amman. A good way to lose an ally. A good way to send a message to other Arab leaders that there is nothing to be gained by establishing relations with Israel.
3. Even if the hit had been successful, it would have accomplished nothing. Leaders are easily replaced. You would think that, after assassinating Palestinians for years without changing anything, the Israelis would figure that out.
4. By using forged Canadian passports, which the Israelis had promised Canada they would not do after another Israeli assassin shot the wrong man in Scandinavia, Netanyahu has offended one of Israel's staunchest allies.
5. By being forced to release the greatest hero Hamas has, Netanyahu has completely undercut both himself and Arafat and strengthened Hamas immeasurably. How canNetanyahu demand that Arafat jail the very people Israel is freeing? That's why Netanyahu had no choice but to resume talks with Arafat. Netanyahu had destroyed his own excuse for not talking to Arafat.
As I have stated, if the consequences were not so tragic, Netanyahu's government would be as funny as a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta. The Oslo Peace Accords were a brilliant stroke of Israeli diplomacy. It gave the Palestinians little, but it gave everyone an excuse to pretend that the Palestinian problem had been solved.
As any Palestinian will tell you, Arab governments don't give a real hoot about Palestinians. Those governments simply could not abandon the Palestinians while Israel was publicly brutalizing them. Oslo gave Arab governments an out, and that's why you saw so many of them indicate their willingness to get together with the Israelis.
So Netanyahu, allied with the religious, right-wing nuts, promptly wrecked the Oslo accords. He even deliberately insulted the United States by publicly announcing his intentions to expand settlements one day after Secretary of State Madeleine Albright asked him, for the sake of the peace process, to take a time out. He has alienated Europe, the Arab world and Japan, and even split the American Jewish community.
Frankly, I don't believe that the man is fully in touch with reality. He seems to think that it is still 1967. But it's 1997, and Israel is no longer invincible. The Lebanese ambushed a crack commando team and shot it to pieces. Hamas bodyguards foiled the famed Mossad assassins. He has given the Israeli people neither peace nor security. What a goof.
[Posted 10/15/97 7:30 PM EST]
(c) 1997 Orlando Sentinel Online