Reckless as it may be to excessively rely on rescue by enemy imprudence, Kadima MK Nachman Shai should certainly be grateful to PA President Mahmoud Abbas for facilitating his own face-saving climb-down.
Earlier this month, Shai was about to head a delegation of opposition politicos on a pilgrimage to Abbas in Ramallah. That PR stunt might have misfired undesirably considering that Abbas has only just reiterated his absolute unwavering insistence on the “right” to inundate Israel with untold millions of hostile Arabs and his equally uncompromising refusal to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
Abbas has done nothing to justify an image boost from an ostensibly mainstream Israeli party while it persists in tarnishing Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as unaccountably the villain of the doomed peace-talks scenario.
Had Abbas not pulled Kadima’s chestnuts out of the fire, Shai’s bunch would have appeared as siding with an intransigent antagonist, all for the sake of whacking the government.
Abbas’s pretext was the inclusion in Shai’s entourage of Alfei Menashe Local Council head Hisdai Eliezer. Abbas blackballed the “settler,” affording Shai an opportunity to play the resolute hero who “objects to any sort of boycott.”
Yet it shouldn’t have taken Abbas’s folly to change Shai’s plans. These plans should have never been made in the first place. It’s one thing for the opposition to carp and take potshots domestically but quite another for it to venture on its own foreign policy initiatives.
In 1947, in what was dubbed “the speech heard around the world,” Republican Sen. Arthur Vandenberg urged that Democratic president Harry Truman be allowed to pursue his foreign policy unhindered because “politics should stop at the water’s edge.”
In other words, honorable politicians present a united front to other countries, despite home-turf disagreements.
Conducting a separate foreign policy, especially vis-a-vis inimical forces, is illegitimate in any democracy. The sabotage of an elected government’s policy overturns the people’s verdict by means other than the ballot box.
Wherever and whenever foreign policy does not remain free of tinkering inspired by partisan rivalries and ambitions, the consequences may prove calamitous.
Remember: the entire Oslo fiasco began as private diplomatic enterprise behind the back of the elected government.
The prelude occurred in 1987, when Shimon Peres, then serving as prime minister Yitzhak Shamir’s foreign minister, concocted the London Agreement with Jordan.
Peres kept Shamir in the dark, while leading King Hussein to believe he had Shamir’s blessing. Only the Americans eventually let Shamir in on the scheme. Peres even refused to show Shamir a copy of the agreement, something the Americans eventually provided.
Shamir sacked Peres. Yitzhak Rabin didn’t, though Peres pulled the same stunt on him. Instead, Rabin fell for the fait accompli, which came to be known as the Oslo Accord.
In an October 31, 2008 Yediot Aharonot interview, Yossi Beilin unabashedly admitted that during the Oslo process, he “had to do things behind people’s backs. I was deputy foreign minister. The foreign minister and prime minister [Peres and Rabin] didn’t know that I was conducting talks with the PLO until I decided to inform them.”
Beilin’s confession should have generated a furious political maelstrom. Our opinion-molders should have been scandalized. Our entire public discourse should have reverberated with outrage. But nobody was appalled. Perhaps it was because Beilin’s conspiracy was right up Peres’s alley and he enticed Rabin into it.
Eventually, irresponsible dilettante negotiations without government sanction or knowledge do more than undermine the country’s strength. They cause disregard and derision for us internationally. Jewish sovereignty ends up treated with insolence nobody would ever dare demonstrate even toward any minor Third World potentate.
What foreign governments and their local envoys allow themselves here, they wouldn’t begin to countenance in relation to any other government anywhere, even of the less-than-strictly-democratic variety.
The erosion is continuous and the damage is wrought in such small increments, over so many years, that collective memory of most individual episodes of subterfuge quickly fades.
Here is one seemingly negligible yet very telling instance from January 2004, when astonished members of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee were informed that Norway’s embassy hosted a clandestine meeting between opposition leader Shimon Peres of Labor and PA premier Ahmed Qurei (Abu Ala). At the time Qurei assiduously resisted all pressure to confer with the elected premier (alas, of the Likud).
But that was hardly all. Qurei was chauffeured to Tel Aviv, without prior coordination with IDF authorities, by Norwegian UN envoy Terje Roed-Larsen – one of Oslo’s progenitors, with political and personal links aplenty to Peres. Larsen had transported Qurei illicitly across the lines in blatant contravention of the legitimate authorities’ regulations. He thereby thumbed his nose at official Israel and this was no isolated instance of such contempt on his part.
The fact that the Norwegian embassy thought it desirable to go behind its host government’s back attested to a flagrantly disrespectful attitude and inappropriate conduct, hardly conceivable elsewhere.
In this forgotten but seminal case, senior diplomats sought to further agendas in cahoots with the opposition against the expressed policies of the legal government. In blunter terms, this should have been called subversion.
Even in 2004, moreover, it wasn’t an isolated instance.
It came hot on the heels of the bizarre financial largesse and tireless efforts of the Swiss to sponsor the Geneva Initiative, in impudent defiance of the government which represented the overwhelming majority of the people.
Additionally, this wasn’t solely the oddball undemocratic indecency of misguided Europeans. American ambassador Dan Kurtzer, representing what was hyped as Washington’s friendliest-ever administration, engaged in similar hanky-panky. He hosted a get-together between senior Palestinians – though they boycotted Israel’s elected leadership – and leading activists in the left-wing opposition from both Labor and Meretz.
Particularly disconcerting was the fact that at least some of this session was devoted to trashing the duly elected government. If anything, that signaled to potential Palestinian “peace partners” that they needn’t respect their Israeli interlocutors and that they can take it for granted that Israel didn’t enjoy American backing. In itself, that’s a dangerous message.
Topping the chutzpah was that the furtive nature of assignation diplomacy wasn’t what bothered Labor or Meretz. They were up-in-arms about the fact that officialdom was aware of who they saw and what was said.
This to them smacked of McCarthyism.
Magically, they shifted the focus from their underhandedness to the supposed violation of their rights, just as they do in the current imbroglio about who funds the Left’s front-organizations, those which spare no effort or tactic to demonize Israel worldwide.
The more things change the more they stay the same.
Israel’s politics stop neither at the water’s edge nor at the Green Line. They never have.