The man who is now, for a second time, Israel’s Prime Minister — Benyamin “Bibi” Netanyahu — went to visit an Israeli settler family in 2001, some two years after his defeat to Ehud Barak [the man who is now Defense Minister, and who is therefore the ruler of the West Bank, making him co-regent, with Netanyahu, of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean].
Last Friday night, for the first time, Israel’s Channel 10 television broadcast a homemade video made of this visit — it shows the man who is now Prime Minister, again, discussing the Oslo Accords, and how he’s arranged everything according to his vision of the way things should be. In the videotaped visit, Netanyahu bragged that he had stopped the Oslo agreement.
What did Netanyahu actually say?
Well, it isn’t pretty.
Paul Woodward summed it up this way in his War in Context blog: “After claiming that the only way to deal with the Palestinian Authority was a large-scale attack, Netanyahu was asked by one of the participants whether or not the United States would let such an attack come to fruition. ‘I know what America is’, Netanyahu replied. ‘America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction … He then called former president Bill Clinton ‘radically pro-Palestinian;, and went on to belittle the Oslo peace accords as vulnerable to manipulation. Since the accords state that Israel would be allowed to hang on to pre-defined military zones [emphasis added here] in the West Bank, Netanyahu told his hosts that he could torpedo the accords by defining vast swaths of land as just that. ‘They asked me before the election if I’d honor [the Oslo accords]’, Netanyahu said. ‘I said I would, but … I’m going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the ’67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I’m concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue’.” This is published <a href=”http://warincontext.org/2010/07/16/how-netanyahu-wrecked-the-peace-process/”>here</a>.
Gideon Levy write in Haaretz today that “Broadcast on Friday night on ‘This Week with Miki Rosenthal’, it was filmed secretly in 2001, during a visit by Citizen Netanyahu to the home of a bereaved family in the settlement of Ofra, and astoundingly, it has not created a stir. The scene was both pathetic and outrageous. The last of Netanyahu’s devoted followers, who believe he is the man who will bring peace, would have immediately changed their minds. Presidents Barack Obama and Shimon Peres, who continue to maintain that Netanyahu will bring peace, would be talking differently had they seen this secretly filmed video clip. Even the objection of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to conducting direct negotiations with the man from the video would be understandable … [T] there has never been one [a leader] like Netanyahu, who wants to do it by deceit, to mock America, trick the Palestinians and lead us all astray. The man in the video betrays himself in his own words as a con artist … this is the real Netanyahu. No more claims that the Palestinians are to blame for the failure of the Oslo Accords. Netanyahu exposed the naked truth to his hosts at Ofra: he destroyed the Oslo accords with his own hands and deeds, and he’s even proud of it. After years in which we were told that the Palestinians are to blame, the truth has emerged from the horse’s mouth. And how did he do it? He recalled how he conditioned his signing of the 1997 Hebron agreement on American consent that there be no withdrawals from ‘specified military locations’, and insisted he choose those same locations, such as the whole of the Jordan Valley, for example. ‘Why is that important? Because from that moment on I stopped the Oslo Accords’, he boasts … There’s no point in talking about Netanyahu’s impossible rightist coalition as an obstacle to progress. From now on, just say that Netanyahu doesn’t want it … If he had said so honestly, as he did when he thought the camera in Ofra was turned off, then he could have been forgiven for his extreme positions. It’s his right to think that way and get elected for it. The people will have gotten what they chose. But when Netanyahu hides his real positions under camouflage netting and entangles them in webs of deceit, he not only reduces the chances of reaching an agreement, he also damages Israel’s political culture. Many people may want a right-wing, nationalist prime minister, but a prime minister who is a con artist? Is is too much to expect of Netanyahu that he speak to us precisely as he spoke in Ofra? Why do a handful of settlers deserve to know the truth, and not us”? This is posted here.
Richard Silverstein wrote a post overnight on his Tikun-Olam blog [Bibi the Bamboozler to Settlers: ‘America Won’t Get in Our Way…It’s Easily Moved’], saying that the videotaped Netanyahu remarks were made some months after the start of the Second Palestinian Intifada, “during the height of a Palestinian terror campaign against Israel and the settlements. It records a condolence call Bibi Netanyahu, recently ‘retired’ from politics after losing the prime ministership and leaving the Sharon government (where he had been Finance Minister), pays on a group of West Bank widows whose husbands had been killed by Palestinian attacks. For those on the Israeli right who claim that the Oslo Accords broke down due to Palestinian terror or any such thing, watch this and you will see that Bibi brags that he destroyed Oslo. Even if you discount this by half as the braggadocio of a macho Israeli politician, it’s still eye-opening … Note in the first passage how Bibi brags that he has America wrapped around his thumb. But really who is to blame for this but American presidents who allow Israeli leaders to outwit and outmaneuver them? When has an American president, except perhaps George Bush pere [the father], ever stood up to Israel and won? And I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion it won’t ever happen with the current president”. This can be read in full here.
Noam Sheizef wrote on his Promised Land blog here, “I agree with Gidon Levy: this item should have gotten much more attention. One could only imagine how history could have looked if Netanyahu carried out Israel’s part in the peace agreement”.