Matthew Brodsky on the Netanyahu Probe, Settlements, Jordan and the Future of Israel

Published December 2nd, 2019 - 10:24 GMT
Matthew Brodsky /AFP
Matthew Brodsky /AFP


DC Insider speaks with Matthew Brodsky, Senior Fellow at the Gold Institute for International Strategy. 

Netanyahu is the first sitting premier to be charged with a crime. Many would argue that this has been a long time coming since Netanyahu has been committing major crimes since the day that he took office, so why now? Why has it taken so long for the world to catch on to his insidious ways?

“His ways are not insidious and anything he has been accused of would be considered very minor in most democracies, and he would be immune from prosecution while serving in office. Nevertheless, he has been dogged by these allegations for about three or four years."



Technically speaking, Netanyahu actually hasn’t been formally indicted yet. Israel’s attorney general just announced his formal intention to indict.  

"I think that what he’s accused of is frankly not that big of a deal and could wait until he is voted out of office, if that were to happen. And it obviously reeks of a political witch hunt since his opponents have been trying to get him out of office by any and all means since they have been unable to do so at the ballot box. Many have watched the American version of this movie when it comes to the Democrats persecution of President Trump.”

But it isn’t only his opponents that are attempting to have him ousted, but members within his own Likud party. 

“Likud has no history of tossing its own elected leader overboard. For more than a decade, Bibi Netanyahu has ably steered Israel through some incredibly difficult times when it comes to foreign affairs. He has balanced warming relations with many Arab leaders, with Russia’s Putin, and others—all while remaining a good friend of President Trump, which is a relationship that pre-dates Mr. Trump’s political career. That Netanyahu hasn’t been stabbed in the back by his political allies yet is actually a testament to the respect he’s earned through the years. In the United States, he’d likely be tossed under the bus in short order. 

He has balanced warming relations with many Arab leaders, with Russia’s Putin, and others—all while remaining a good friend of President Trump, which is a relationship that pre-dates Mr. Trump’s political career.

A reflection of how personal Israeli politics has become when it comes to Netanyahu can be seen in Blue and White’s Benny Gantz’s position. The Likud party has an ideology and platform that will more or less be carried through no matter who his serving at the top of the slate. So when Gantz refuses to join a government with Netanyahu but has no problem joining with Likud if he steps down, he is saying there isn’t an ideological problem but a personal one.

From his perspective, it makes political sense because Netanyahu is a strong leader by comparison. Whatever leader emerges from a post-Netanyahu Likud will be seen as weaker or at least on the same level as Gantz himself.”

So what, would you say, is the main factor behind how long it took for Netanyahu to get indicted? 

“Because loyalty is important over there. Netanyahu, from the perspective of Likud, has done a fantastic job. The fact is - if you look at Israeli political history - Likud only had one other serving prime minister other than Netanyahu since the mid-1990s. It was Ariel Sharon from 1999 until 2005, but he split from Likud and formed the more centrist Kadima Party that won the elections for the purpose of carrying out Israel’s disengagement from Gaza. So Likud was divided and in the political wilderness from 2005 until 2008.

The bitter taste of the disaster that was Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza left a mark on Israeli voters who trust less in pipe-dreams these days.

Netanyahu helped solve that internal rift and the Likud Party under his leadership has been leading the country ever since. Of course, it helped that the whole idea of a centrist block being the right path forward collapsed when Hamas ousted Fatah from their rule over Gaza and turned the strip into a rocket-fueled terrorist haven. The bitter taste of the disaster that was Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza left a mark on Israeli voters who trust less in pipe-dreams these days.”

Netanyahu is not legally required to resign unless he is convicted, and the cases could stretch for years. What is the likelihood of him being convicted, and what should we expect if he doesn’t get convicted?

“I think that if he is not convicted, you’ll see much of the same as what we’ve seen in the past few months. You have four primary groups, politically, in Israel that all have declared redlines that that they won’t budge on… That’s Lieberman, Gantz, Netanyahu, and the religious parties on the right.
 

You have four primary groups, politically, in Israel that all have declared redlines that that they won’t budge on… That’s Lieberman, Gantz, Netanyahu, and the religious parties on the right.

All of them promised specific things while none of them can deliver it on their own, and someone is going to have to back down because I don’t know why Netanyahu would hang a proverbial ‘L’ on his entire political career if he has not, in fact, been convicted but merely been indicted.”


Only being indicted on these few simple charges… How about his crimes against humanity, especially in Gaza? 

“That contention is absolutely laughable. No one fights a more humane war in the planet than Israel who always warns when they’re going to attack if civilians are nearby. In fact, in Gaza they manage to keep their fire directed at Islamic Jihad and Hamas and do not target civilians. I don’t think you will find any country anywhere - including the U.S. and Britain and all the loud-mouthed, holier-than-thou representatives who like to spout off at the U.N.- who would do any job of protecting human life better. 

I don’t think you will find any country anywhere - including the U.S. and Britain and all the loud-mouthed, holier-than-thou representatives who like to spout off at the U.N.- who would do any job of protecting human life better. 

For example, if there’s a hospital in Gaza city that Hamas uses as a headquarters in a specific wing, they target their fire directly there to try to eliminate that specific cell. These types of things where civilians are harmed happen in conflict. When it comes to Israel, you have a country that actually mourns civilian casualties, conducts investigations when they are harmed, and holds themselves accountable.

They constantly strive to be as surgical as possible. That’s quite different than Hamas, which hands out candy when they manage to kill Israeli civilians, whom they are targeting. It should be apparent by now that Israel is held to a standard quite different from the rest of world.”

Last week, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo emphasized that the U.S. would no longer regard illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian-occupied West Bank as a violation of international law, although it goes directly against the Oslo Accords. Was this a last-minute effort by Pompeo to salvage Netanyahu, or was this the trump administration’s concerted effort to convince themselves- and the world- that the annexation is legal?   

“I think that the U.S. didn’t want to be involved in zoning disputes and permits in another country, which it doesn’t do elsewhere around the globe. There’s a whole bunch of garbage that people spew when it comes to international law regarding this issue, most of which is completely absurd.

There’s been one country that actually annexed the West Bank and that was actually Jordan after the 1948 war and they practiced ethnic cleansing by expelling the Jews and by destroying the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, specifically.

What Israel did was hold on to the land after it was captured in 1967, and then, of course, it received the famous Khartoum Resolutions within a few months known as “The 3 No’s” in which eight Arab heads of state declared there’d be no recognition, no negotiations, and no peace with Israel.

What Israel did was hold on to the land after it was captured in 1967, and then, of course, it received the famous Khartoum Resolutions within a few months known as “The 3 No’s” in which eight Arab heads of state declared there’d be no recognition, no negotiations, and no peace with Israel.

Instead, they pledged a continuation of the armed struggle. None of the countries could, at least, verbally bring themselves to accept Israel’s right to exist for several more decades. 

Either way, if Israel were to return some of the land, it would be returning it to Jordan. There’s never actually been a Palestine as a state entity.

Either way, if Israel were to return some of the land, it would be returning it to Jordan. There’s never actually been a Palestine as a state entity. Palestinians are able, if they’d like, to come to the negotiating table to negotiate with Israel whatever the end of the conflict would be… That was the entire point of the Oslo process to begin with but the fact that they’re going to hide behind whatever they declare as ‘new international law’ is basically another way in which they shirk their responsibility of having to deal with their own mythology and avoid the need to compromise.

Instead they seem to be hoping that someone else is going to deliver Israel to them on a platter, which frankly isn’t going to happen.”

King Abdullah said that unless a solution is found to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel is not truly a part of the Middle East. Is Israel losing one of its necessary few allies in the region, and could the ousting attempt of Netanyahu help ease bilateral relations?

“Jordan has domestic considerations that are understandable that pretty much undergird a lot of the things that it says- some of that has to do with population make-up of its country… Another part of it has to do with the role that it has enjoyed in Israel and when I say enjoyed, I mean that Israel didn’t need to give the area of Temple Mount to Jordanian custodianship when it captured the West Bank.

As a goodwill gesture, Israel decided to give it to Jordan and respect its special position. Clearly, Jordan does not want to see that role diminished in any way.

As a goodwill gesture, Israel decided to give it to Jordan and respect its special position. Clearly, Jordan does not want to see that role diminished in any way.

I understand why Jordan would be more vocal about it than other Middle Eastern countries, whose relationships Israel has been improving quietly, because of the actual shared concern that all of those states have: Iran, which is a far bigger deal than apparently the fate of the Palestinians who don’t actually want to end the conflict themselves by negotiating directly with Israel.”

 

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Al Bawaba News.


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