Ehud Barak was a guest on Greta Van Sustern’s FoxNews show tonight (no I don’t watch regularly, I was channel surfing) and made some surprising statements after a meeting with the UN’s Ban Ki-Moon. First, Van Sustern asked him almost querulously: Geez, you won’t stop settlements, the Palestinians won’t come to the table unless you do, what do you expect us to do for you? Barak’s clueless answer shows just how bereft of options he and his government are at this juncture:
I’ll be tomorrow in Washington and early next week, I’ll probably know more. I am here to try and help to find the right formula.
When your interviewer asks you what her country can do to help you make peace and all you can do is punt–not a good sign. To paraphrase a Paul Simon lyric: you don’t know where you’re going and my friend neither do I.
One of the neat ideas Barak has dreamed up to force the Palestinians back to the table (yes, didn’t you know it was the Palestinians’ fault the negotiations failed?) is for the UN to demand that the Palestinians resume negotiations. That’ll go over big with a world body which basically believes that this whole mess is Bibi & Co.’s fault.
Neat idea #2 concerned Iran: as far as Barak and sanctions are concerned, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The operative word for sanction hawks used to be “punishing sanctions.” Now they’re ratcheted up the rhetoric and the Israeli defense minister is calling for “paralyzing sanctions.” Perhaps he’s calling for inducing an Iranian polio epidemic? What else could that mean? Laying siege to Iranian ports? Boarding ships on the high seas to enforce a blockade? Who knows, and the skies the limit as far as those pesky Israelis are concerned.
When asked how far Iran was from getting a nuclear weapon, Barak demurred giving a substantive answer. But he did make this revealing reference I haven’t heard an Israeli official make in a long time:
I think and I expect in the [garbled] community while considering the timeline for all these sanctions and Chapter 7 kind of resolutions in the UN Security Council, to bear in mind that time is not infinite and beyond a certain window of opportunity the Iranians will get immunity through redundancy [they will have the components of their nuclear weapons so dispersed and redundant that their program cannot be stopped].
The reference to Chapter 7 really caught my eye because it’s the category of resolution that is necessary in order to approve the use of force against a member state. In fact, the Bush Administration attempted to invoke it in 2006. Typically, the interviewer let the reference slip by and didn’t catch its potential significance.
Of course, there are several members of the Security Council who might frown on a Chapter 7 resolution since it clearly could be construed as a step closer to war. Barak can’t seriously believe Israel would get such a resolution through the Council. But since he’d just returned from a meeting with the UN secretary-general, this was clearly one of the things he was proposing. I believe it’s likely this is a part of the game of psychological warfare waged by the Israelis against the Iranians. But what the Israelis don’t seem to realize is that the Iranians are not stupid. They know Israel has no hope of such a resolution. So the entire exercise appears as a bluff, making Israel appear to be an empty suit.
I also believe the entire issue of Iran, as far as Israel is concerned, is that slight distraction that magicians count on to fool their mark. It’s the moment that allows the magician to pull off the trick. In this case, the trick is the Palestinian conflict and Iran is the distraction, the escape valve that lets off steam when Israel fails to meet its obligations to negotiate an end to the conflict. What better way to turn the world’s attention away from Israel’s failure than to conjure the Iranian bogeyman who allegedly threatens not just Israel, but the entire world?
Haaretz reports that 26 former EU leaders have signed a sharp letter to the current EU leadership asking it to take strong measures to protest Israel’s violation of international law and to support Palestinian efforts to establish a state. Among the signatories were former EU foreign affairs minister Javier Solana, former German president Richard von Weizsacker, former Irish president Mary Robinson, and former prime ministers of Spain and Italy, Felipe Gonzales and Romano Prodi:
The European leaders are backing the Palestinians’ efforts to rally international support for the recognition of an independent Palestinian state as an alternative to the negotiations that have reached an impasse. They note that the Palestinians cannot expect to be able to set up an independent state without international political and economic assistance.
…They also want it made clear that a European Union decision to upgrade relations with Israel and other bilateral agreements will be frozen unless Israel freezes settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
They also propose that the EU announce that it will not accept any unilateral changes to the 1967 border that Israel carried out against international law, and that the Palestinian state would cover an area the same size as the area occupied in 1967. This would also include the establishment of a capital in East Jerusalem.
George Gershwin wrote: “How long has this been going on?” Now, the question is how much longer can this go on?