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Did Netanyahu Lie? Probably! But So what?


Binyamin Netanyahu

The leaders of Israel’s left wing parties are continuing to slam Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu for his supposed lies and dirty tricks during the election campaign this year. Someone should tell them that the election is over, Netanyahu will continue to be the prime minister and nothing that they say now will change that.

They just sound, once again, like a bunch of sore losers.

Did Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lie just before that country’s national elections when he said that he had reversed himself and was now opposed to a two state solution. Probably!

Netanyahu has now “clarified” his remarks saying that he never formally opposed the two state solution, just that he said that as of now Israel does not have a reliable partner for the establishment of a Palestinian State.

It depends on whether or not you believe him when he says that he never actually said that.

But knowing Netanyahu if the question is, “was he lying when he said it or lying now about never having said it” it is probably the latter.

So Bibi lied. So what?

In Israel political leaders making outright lies to the public during elections is as big a tradition as having a Seder on the first night of Pesach.

Let’s look at the history, shall we.

In 1953 Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion claimed to retire and pretended to move to a kibbutz in the Negev to promote the development of that desert. But he actually spent most of his time back in Tel Aviv trying to control the government from the outside.

After interfering with his successor Moshe Sharet’s government, Ben-Gurion forced the latter out of office only two years after his supposed retirement.

So did Ben-Gurion lie about retiring and always intend to try and control things from the outside and to eventually return? Probably.

Then there was Menachem Begin. He had promised after the Six Day War in 1967 that he would never give up any of the land that Israel had conquered from its Arab neighbors, including the Sinai Desert.

10 years after that war his Likud Party stunned Israel by winning the elections there for the first time. Only two years later Begin signed the Camp David Treaty with Egypt in which he agreed to give up all of the Sinai and dismantle the Israeli settlements there.

But let’s give Begin the benefit of the doubt. He did not want to do that. He tried to get Egypt to agree to leave Israel in control of part of the Sinai. Then he tried to get it to agree to let the Israeli settlements remain. But Egyptian President Sadat refused and the American President Jimmy Carter took his side.

Jimmy Carter twisted Begin’s arm to the point of breaking on the issue until he caved. But Israel did get something in return for its concessions at Camp David. While there is no evidence of any quid pro quo, both Egypt and Israel began to receive billions of dollars a year in both economic and military aid from the US after the treaty was signed. They still do.

And let’s face it. The Sinai was never part of the Holy Land. That was why God made us wander there for 40 years as a punishment. It was also never part of the territory that the British were given by the League of Nations after World War I with the mandate to create a Jewish State in it.

Now let’s talk about Yitzhak Rabin.

In 1992 he campaigned as the leader of the Labor Party on the promise not to recognize the PLO nor to do business with Arafat. He then did both.

Rabin also made a pledge not to return the Golan Heights to Syria. He campaigned saying that this would never happen and that it was incumbent on the Israeli people to continue to develop the Golan and to expand its settlement there.

But after he was assassinated it was revealed that Rabin had agreed in principle to give up the Golan in exchange for a peace treaty with Syria. It did not happen only because the Syrians refused to agree to a formal peace treaty with an exchange of embassies and said that they would only agree to some sort of promise of non-belligerence, whatever that means.

The Syrians also insisted on a return to the pre-1967 border and not the international one. What’s the difference?

After the armistice of 1948, the Syrians had control of the northeastern corner of the Kineret. This made the Sea of Galilee an international body of water and left the Syrians with the right of access to it and to take water from it.

But the UN Partition plan gave Israel control of all sides of the Kineret. So while the Syrians demanded the return of all territory that Israel had conquered from them by force they also insisted on getting back land which they had conquered from Israel by force.

How about Ehud Barak?

In his campaign in 1999 he said repeatedly that he would implement a draft for ALL Israelis. This meant that he would end the yeshiva deferments which have allowed Israel’s ultra-orthodox community avoid military service.

But when the dust settled after the elections that year the Labor was left with only 26 seats in the Knesset and the Haredim had a combined 22. So Barak needed them to form a government and went back on his promise to draft them.

It was not clear when he made the promise to begin with how he could have honestly expected to fulfill it since he knew that a government with the ultra-orthodox could not be avoided.

Barak also made allusions in 1999 to including an Arab Party in his coalition government, but did not do so. This further alienated the Arab Community in Israel from the Labor Party.

That same year the leader of the left wing Meretz Party Yosi Sarid promised not to sit in any government with the Sephardic Haredi Party Shas. But it was not possible for Barak to form a government without Shas so Sarid went back on his word.

In case you think that neither Barak nor Sarid lied during the elections because they said what they hoped they would be able to do, there was really no reason for either of them to believe before the elections that a coalition government without the Haredim would have been possible.

Then there was Ariel Sharon.

During the elections of 2003 the leader of the opposition Labor Party, Amram Mitzna, campaigned on a platform which included a promise to withdraw unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. Sharon swore that he would never do such a thing. Mitzna led the Labor to its worst defeat at the polls until then winning only 19 seats in the Knesset. The Likud won twice that, 38 seats.

Only a year after the elections Sharon already announced his intention to do exactly what he promised he would not do and what his main opponent the year before promised he would do: withdraw unilaterally from Gaza.

Only 2 and a half years after the elections of 2003 Sharon presided over the withdrawal which included the evictions of thousands of Israeli settlers from their homes.

There are, of course, plenty of examples of U.S. Presidents doing the same thing. And I’m sure that plenty of elected leaders in England, France and the rest of Europe have also lied through their teeth just to get elected too. But you are probably getting bored of this article already so I will get to the end.

Israelis are never surprised to hear that the winner of an election lied to them. It is something that everyone here knows to expect in every election.

It is kind of like how everyone knows not to believe everything that they read in the brochures about luxury resorts or what television commercials promise about miracle products.

So Bibi lied. So what?

Instead of kvetching about it the Laborites need to start working on having an actual platform to propose to the Israeli public instead of just “Netanyahu sucks!”

They need to actually try to promote their ideas and learn how to persuade people instead of just talking down to them and declaring how right they are all of the time.

If they do this then the party might actually win another election before the Mashiach comes.

Gil

Gil Tanenbaum made aliyah from New York after he completed college.He Has lived in Israel for over 20 years.He has an MBA from Bar Ilan University and is a contributor for various blogs.

7 Comments

  1. tf

    3/23/2015 at 6:29 am

    “So Bibi lied. So what?” Because Obama is using it as a pretext to withdraw support from Israel is what. Obama was just waiting for an excuse and Netanyahu very stupidly gave it to him. First shot across the bow was at the UNHRC today.

    • tf

      3/23/2015 at 10:15 am

      Correction: It seems that the US abstention was a non story that Reuters apparently started.

      However, I stand by the substance of what I said. In a world where right, wrong and facts don’t matter, only headlines Netanyahu is a lightning rod for those who wish Israel ill and Netanyahu gives them a credibility they wouldn’t necessarily have otherwise.

      Israel’s situation is not normal. Netanyahu makes enemies, and worse he does so in pursuit of his own selfish ends, and Israel needs friends.

      • Gil

        3/23/2015 at 10:22 am

        Bibi already had a credibility problem and everyone knew it. You missed my point. He has already backtracked on his opposition to a Pal state

        • tf

          3/23/2015 at 10:47 am

          Yes, I think we agree. Netanyahu lies all the time.
          As I said Israel’s situation isn’t normal. You asked ‘so what?’ and I am replying by suggesting the ‘what’. Netanyahu is burning bridges at the expense of the country. Obama is using Netanyahu’s lying as a pretext*… for what action(s)the US (read Obama) will take only time will tell.

          *If we are to believe the recent reports (a US leak) Netanyahu made a secret deal in London that Abbas turned down. So his actions in private indicate a lot more willingness to to come to an agreement than his words. He was willing to make substantial concessions Livni expressly rejected.

          Unfortunately the headline should have been Abbas AGAIN REF– USES generous Israeli peace offer. But the headlines were all about Netanyahu’s duplicity saying no but actually conceding.

          • Gil

            3/24/2015 at 4:51 am

            understood, but that was never the headline, look what happened in 200 when Arafat rejected Barak’s offer, all the western media said as “how could Arafat be expected to tell his people he was giving up on most of what they believe is Palestine?” Then when they started the 2nd Intifada it was all blamed on Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount

  2. A.F. Kaplan

    3/23/2015 at 9:39 pm

    How do you know when a politician is lying? When his lips are moving.

    There are some things in this world that are universal…..

  3. Raphael

    4/12/2015 at 3:57 pm

    We know politicians promise things at election time.However What Bibi said about the two state solution will remain in the public mind and the fact he then said he didn’t mean it will not be noticed much.It seemed ac bit foolish to me but we all have politiians who want to win more than any other consideration like wanting peace or solutions

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