Israelis in general don’t read Ha’aretz — its circulation runs a poor third, after Yediot Aharonot and Ma’ariv. It exists for its English Internet edition, which is apparently taken seriously by ‘important’ folks in Europe and the US, despite the fact that its extreme left-wing bias reflects the views of only a tiny minority of Israelis.
This makes it dangerous at worst, or annoying at best. Here’s an example of the latter, by Aluf Benn, Ha’aretz Editor at Large:
Netanyahu rejected Obama’s request for a two-month extension of the settlement freeze; the president had wanted quiet on the Middle East front while he concentrated on the midterm elections. For his part, Netanyahu explained that he needed to show “credibility and steadfastness” at home, and indeed the incentives promised by the U.S. president in exchange for the extension did not sway the prime minister. One can surmise that Netanyahu did not want to help Obama ahead of the U.S. elections, and thus annoy the president’s Republican rivals. [my italics]
Actually, one can’t surmise that at all, unless one is a fool — or, like Benn, is trying to make trouble. There are clear reasons having to do with Israeli, not American, politics that make it impossible for PM Netanyahu to extend the freeze any further, even if he wanted to.
For one thing, his centrist coalition would come apart as the parties on the Right fled. The general population, too, even those who are not normally called ‘pro-settlement’, understand that the freeze has not brought peace any closer and object to American interference in Israel’s sovereignty. And then there is the certainty that a renewed freeze would be met with massive disobedience, putting Netanyahu in the position of either ignoring it and getting attacked for being ‘anti-peace’, or putting it down by force. Not an appealing choice to have to make.
Not only are Israeli domestic issues overriding, the US connection doesn’t exist. Benn seems to suggest that Americans are concerned with the prospects of the ‘peace process’, but this is probably the least important issue in the minds of most, for whom domestic economic and social issues are paramount. My guess is that not one of a hundred million voters will say “hmm, Netanyahu didn’t extend the freeze, that means Obama’s a dork — I better vote Republican.”
Insofar as he actually believes what he says, Benn is displaying the egotism one often finds among peace processors, who don’t realize that most people — inside and outside of Israel — have understood at least since 2000 that the ‘process’ is wholly worthless and irrelevant.
If he doesn’t believe it, then he’s just trying to provide material for the NY Times editorial writers, administration and State Department personnel, European Parliament members and UN functionaries that comprise his audience, to help them sharpen the knives that they have had out for Mr. Netanyahu since his election.
Remember that President Obama tried to bring about regime change in Israel before, but had to hold off when he realized that too much pressure on Israel would be bad for relations with some important Democrats on election eve. He won’t have to worry about that after Tuesday, so this little jab from Benn at the ‘disloyal’ PM is an indication of the way things are going to go starting next week.
Update [1 Nov 0756 PDT]: Added link to the original Ha’aretz article.