While reporters are filtering through the trove of emails from the Hillary Clinton email dump, one of the first things that has emerged is that Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu is probably the single greatest threat to Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Two emails from former Bill Clinton advisors Martin Indyk and Sandy Berger, which made their way to Hillary Clinton, give insight into how the Clinton camp may view the challenges that Netanyahu poses. Namely, the problems with Netanyahu are not matters of policy, they are matters of personality.
From Martin Indyk’s email in Sept. 2010:
Believing that he [Netanyahu] is a great negotiator, and that he is operating in the Middle East bazaar, he inflates his requirements well beyond anything reasonable in the belief that this is the best way to secure the highest price. The process of bringing him down to a reasonable price uses up a lot of energy, uses up a lot of goodwill, humiliates his Palestinian negotiating partner, and raises doubts about his seriousness. In the end, under great pressure from all quarters, he will make the final concession, but only after wasting a lot of time, making everybody furious with him, and thereby securing no credit either with his supporters or negotiating partners. At heart, he seems to lack a generosity of spirit. This combines with his legendary fear of being seen as a “freier” (sucker) in front of his people to create a real problem in the negotiations, especially because he holds most of the cards.
It’s obvious based on Indyk’s language – Netanyahu lacks “a generosity of spirit” – that Indyk holds no love for the Israeli leader. Although, as he recognizes later in the memo that he focuses on Netanyahu’s personality because it is likely to be the deciding factor of whether agreements can be reached.
The reason for dwelling on Bibi’s psychology rather than his politics is that the latter all point in the direction of making a deal: the Israeli public is ready to get on with it; if Israel doesn’t make a serious move, it will further deligitimize its standing interntaionally (something Bibi is deeply concerned about); Bibi needs President Obama in his corner to deal with the threat from Iran and to avoid punishment by the voters for mishandling relations with the U.S.; and if he doesn’t make the deal with Abu Mazen now, he will have helped to advance the future he is most concerned about – a Hamas takeover of the Palestinian leadership.
Sandy Berger’s memo also cast questions onto Netanyahu’s commitment to a peaceful resolution to tensions. Berger, like Indyk, sees Netanyahu as the fly in the ointment, preventing a resolution from being reached for personal reasons.
From Berger’s memo:
Failure is a real possibility. Palenstinians are in disarray. The Arab world is profoundly divided with forthcoming successions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia that will weaken two of the states upon which we most rely. And a serious questionmark hovers over Bibi’s politics, his head and his heart.
The emails are from years ago, but it would be hard to imagine that either Berger or Indyk’s positions have warmed to Netanyahu. Given these men have played important roles in Bill Clinton’s administration and advised from the sidelines during Hillary’s tenure as Secretary of State, it seems reasonable to assume that they would maintain influence in a Hillary presidency.
It also becomes clear that Netanyahu, for all of his posturing and pomp, is little more than a selfish blowhard who is willing to risk conflict to protect his political power.