Netanyahu to Clinton: I’m not the one moving the goalposts

posted at 11:00 am on September 24, 2011 by Ed Morrissey

ABC’s David Muir interviewed Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday afternoon, shortly after Bill Clinton accused him of “moving the goalposts” (apparently a phrase used by The Cable and not Clinton himself) for negotiations in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.  Netanyahu strongly disagreed with Clinton’s accusation, and insisted that the Palestinians want a “free ride” to statehood without recognizing Israel or agreeing to necessary security conditions:

MUIR:  President Obama and former President Clinton, for that matter, did not support this move by the Palestinians before the U.N. today.

But President Clinton was quoted in the last 24 hours, bluntly saying, reportedly, that your government is to blame for the continued failure of the Middle East peace process, saying that you’d essentially moved the goalposts when you came to power.  How do you react to that?

NETANYAHU:  Oh, I respectfully disagree.  You know, President Clinton knows very well in 2000 at Camp David that — who really made the generous offer, and the Palestinians refused to come.  I’m sure that President Bush can tell you what happened at Camp David a few years later, when another Israeli prime minister made a generous offer, and the Palestinians refused to come.

I’ve made a series of offers on day one and since then, on coming to office this trip, and the Palestinians refused to come.  The reason they refuse to come is they get away with it.  They get a free ride.  They basically refuse to sit down and negotiate.  And they’re — and we’re branded as the opponents of peace.  As long as that continues, they’ll continue to avoid negotiations.

MUIR:  But have the goalposts been moved since President Clinton, Camp David, and since President Bush as well?

NETANYAHU:  Not at all.  I think that the Palestinians so far have not responded to these suggestions.  I’d be interested in hearing their response to it.  But the most important thing is rather than try to end the negotiations before they begin, I suggest just begin the negotiations.  It’s so simple.  What could be simpler than a suggestion to just sit down?

Now, there are a lot of things we have to negotiate about.  Settlements is one of them.  I’ll tell you what the other one is, security.  Israel is so tiny.  It’s, you know, a little less than the length of Manhattan, without the West Bank, without Judea and Samaria.

So how do we protect it?  We’re going to have to have security arrangements, solid security arrangements on the ground, a long-term Israeli military presence in strategic areas in the West Bank.  And that requires a negotiation.

And the Palestinians are basically trying to shortcut this.  They’re trying to get a state without giving us peace, and without giving us security.  That’s wrong.  I called on them today to have — to come and negotiate the recognition and security that I think will make peace a real thing, something that could endure for generations.

Clinton’s analysis has a couple of holes in it:

Sharon had decided he needed to build a new centrist coalition, so he created the Kadima party and gained the support of leaders like Tzipi Livni and Ehud Olmert. He was working toward a consensus for a peace deal before he fell ill, Clinton said. But that effort was scuttled when the Likud party returned to power.

“The Israelis always wanted two things that once it turned out they had, it didn’t seem so appealing to Mr. Netanyahu. They wanted to believe they had a partner for peace in a Palestinian government, and there’s no question — and the Netanyahu government has said — that this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

“[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it,” Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.

Actually, they’re the same hole, which is this: the Palestinians refuse to negotiate.  If they want the deal Arafat rejected, then come back to the table and propose it.  In a real negotiation, both sides offer proposals, so the idea that Israel is to blame for the standoff because they didn’t re-offer a proposal that directly led to the second intifada to an empty chair is not just risible, it’s downright dishonest.  Clinton is essentially legitimizing the Palestinian Authority’s strategy of bypassing Israel and getting everyone else to pressure them into accepting a diktat for statehood without being willing to engage directly with Israel. Why?  Because Abbas refuses to publicly recognize Israel’s right to exist.

When I went to Jerusalem in June, Netanyahu addressed the conference at the end, speaking mainly in English — with a brief exception when he spoke in Hebrew and repeated his call for two mutually-recognized states, Israel and Palestine.  He then switched to English and challenged Mahmoud Abbas to say the same thing in Arabic to his people.  Clinton may be right that the current PA is the “finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had,” but it’s still too pusillanimous — or too honest — to declare their recognition of the permanent Jewish state of Israel. This is exactly what Netanyahu means by a “free ride” — they don’t want to face the political consequences of recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and so the rest of the world wants Israel to assume huge security risks to let Abbas off the hook.  Netanyahu won’t do it, and he shouldn’t.

Besides, there have been exactly two Palestinian Authority leaders, Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat.  Saying that Abbas is the finest leader of the PA is a bit akin to calling Nikita Khrushchev a giant leap forward from Josef Stalin — or more to the point, calling Ali Khamenei the finest leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran in comparison to Ruhollah Khomeini.

Plus, it’s important to catch Clinton’s modifier of that statement, “in the West Bank.”  Even if the Palestinians did return to the negotiating table and offer the exact same deal that Arafat rejected — which is unlikely in the extreme — the situation on the ground has changed significantly.  The PA no longer controls Gaza, and Hamas continues to rain thousands of rockets down on Israel from that territory.  Now the PA has legitimized Hamas in the West Bank again with their deal earlier this year, which means that security arrangements in both territories have to reflect those new threats.

The correct response to Abbas is to tell him to stop talking to the UN and start talking to Netanyahu. Even Arafat managed to engage in direct negotiations.

Update: Jeff Dunetz argues that Netanyahu has offered more concessions than his predecessors, and that Clinton has forgotten quite a bit about Yitzhak Rabin:

Clinton did work directly with Rabin.  He forgets though that Rabin was a pragmatic man, who negotiated with (and even shook hands with) a terrorist  simply to prevent further bloodshed of innocent Israelis, but he wasn’t willing to negotiate away Israel’s security or her heritage.

Since his death, the myth of Rabin’s peacemaking expanded.  While it is true that he was the Prime Minister who began the “Oslo Process, ” it is also true that his final vision for the process was to the right of supposedly “hawkish” Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Rabin did not support the creation of a Palestinian State, while Netanyahu does. Like Bibi, Rabin did not support the division of Jerusalem. Rabin was not the “sacrifice everything for the sake of peace” type that the Labor Party Premiers who came after him. The truth is despite what Bill Clinton Says, Yitzchak Rabin was the last prime minister of Israel that did not support the creation of a Palestinian State.

And Jeff backs that up by noting that nine days before Rabin was assassinated, he gave a Knesset speech in which he called for “an entity which is less than a state” for the Palestinians.  Netanyahu has gone farther than Rabin, and has from the beginning of this term.

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F the Palestinians, and F Clinton.

Midas on September 24, 2011 at 11:04 AM

Clinton looks down on Israel the way he looked down on Monica Lewinski.

And expects the same service.

profitsbeard on September 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

Look, Bibi. You are far too gracious to former President Clinton. Please just remind him that all the interns in your office have served in the military, wear unstained dresses, and that you were never impeached.

ted c on September 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

The Left is beyond bizarre. Here they project that irrational behavior on the Right and there the project Palestinian terrorism on Israel. The sad thing is that they get away with it.

Cindy Munford on September 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Can we just call them what they are?

Displaced, unwanted citizens of Jordan and the entire Arab world.

Key West Reader on September 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

If one would look at the history of that region ever since 1948 forward, it wouldn’t take long to see the efforts by the Arabs to “repeat a lie often enough, it will become truth”.

The Israeli’s didn’t expel the so-called Palestinians (which by the way were Egyptians, Jordanians and others prior to 1948 and the 1967 war)depending on where they lived. They were told to flee while the Arab warmongers defeated Israel and wiped them out of the area. Trouble is, they failed and their people have been in Jordanian refugee camps for the past 63 years.

You would think the Arabs, if they really cared about these people would find space for them to give them a place they can call their country. But that’s not what they want. They want what belongs to the Jews and to ethnically cleanse all Jews from that region.

Have you counted the number of concessions the Palestinans have offered for peace? Can you count how often the world, and in particular this country, has demanded anything of the Palestinians? Or how about the constant barrage of resolutions by the UN against Israel for their “genocide” yet nary a word about the genocide committed by Muslims against the Christians in the Sudan or Darfur.

Netanyahu was right – the UN (and the Arab countries) are nothing but a house of lies.

iamsaved on September 24, 2011 at 11:13 AM

Anyone in the room think Hamas will honor a PLO settlement which, even unlikely as it is to happen, includes allowing Israel to exist in peace?

a capella on September 24, 2011 at 11:14 AM

“Them Jews.”
 
- Rev. Jeremiah Wright

rogerb on September 24, 2011 at 11:14 AM

That long time friend and advisor to dear hill, weiners wife, is a rop type and has been slamming the US and Israel in the last few months. I have a feeling hill and bill both have no use for Israel. That speech Bibi gave before the un yesterday was the greatest! He told the truth on how Israel has bent over backwards to get abbas to come to the table. Zero response yet it seems. I love Bibi and Israel.
L

letget on September 24, 2011 at 11:14 AM

Let them make the Gaza their new homeland. If they want more land, let the Egyptians and other Arabs give it to them. Israel should throw all the Palestinians out…out of the West Bank. Arabs lost that land fair and square. Israel returned the Gaza and Sinai, and that should be it!

Karmi on September 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

Can we just call them what they are?

Displaced, unwanted citizens of Jordan and the entire Arab world.

Key West Reader on September 24, 2011 at 11:11 AM

Who are unable to support themselves as a community and survive almost entirely on gifts from others.

a capella on September 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

You’ll have to pardon Billy. His memory is highly selective.

GarandFan on September 24, 2011 at 11:19 AM

Go Bibi, forget about bubba

cmsinaz on September 24, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Give these Paleo’s a state. Now.

Never.

Key West Reader on September 24, 2011 at 11:21 AM

I’m worried…you can hear it in people voices and see it in there comments. I worry more in tough economic times because it is just one more reason (like we’ve seen before) to lash out needlessly at the wrong people.

The strength of evil is apathy and that will never go away I think.

tomas on September 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Netanyahu is a bada$$ and a true statesman.

Clinton is a shallow politician who loves his air time.

I wish Netanyahu could be our POTUS.

bridgetown on September 24, 2011 at 11:22 AM

Their

tomas on September 24, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Who are unable to support themselves as a community and survive almost entirely on gifts from others.

a capella on September 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

They are the face and embodiment of political islam. I cannot and will not support it.

God Bless Bibi; his statesmanship and good will are beyond measure. In less than 15 months, he will have a true ally in the White House.

Key West Reader on September 24, 2011 at 11:24 AM

Consider it this way:

You are the mayor of a small city. There is a mob of violent yoots that wants to enter your city and kill your civilians. You know the threat is clear; the mob has made their mission known to you.

So, what to do?

Open the door and let them come in and kill your family/citizenry?

or..

Bolt the door and protect your family/citizenry?

You choose.

Key West Reader on September 24, 2011 at 11:30 AM

Look, Bibi. You are far too gracious to former President Clinton.

That’s his style.
He’s the classiest head of state in the world.
Yet the world & the US Left portray him as a monster.

Please just remind him that all the interns in your office have served in the military, wear unstained dresses, and that you were never impeached.

ted c on September 24, 2011 at 11:08 AM

It would be fun if he really said that!

itsnotaboutme on September 24, 2011 at 11:35 AM

profitsbeard on September 24, 2011 at 11:05 AM

LOL!

pain train on September 24, 2011 at 11:38 AM

Uh, could someone explain to me which Clinton is secretary of state? Or is Obama leaving the room and giving Bubba the stage again?

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 11:44 AM

Obama>? Shouldn’t you be directing your question at the Media?

bridgetown on September 24, 2011 at 11:46 AM

Genesis 12: 1-3.

kingsjester on September 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM

Whenever the US or the “quarter” want negotiations to start, they always ask the Israelis to do something to build Palestinian “confidence.” And it’s something specific and measurable, like a freeze on settlements or removing some roadchecks.

The PLO is only asked to make “best efforts” to “reduce” violence from the Palestinians (which they promise, but never really do).

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

quarter=quartet.

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

Clinton is forever…..that certain on the dress of a girl 30 years younger.

While on the phone even!!!

Amazing, so many Presidents have to rehab their image after leaving the White House.

Behold our Ruling Class Overlords!

PappyD61 on September 24, 2011 at 12:03 PM

Are there other countries who oppose this resolution besides the US?

Blake on September 24, 2011 at 12:04 PM

The Palestinians are the Gypsies of the Middle East… That’s why nobody (Jordan, Syria, Egypt) want to cede 1 acre of desert scrub to them…

Hence the “Why won’t Israel negotiate in good faith?” meme…

It doesn’t work with me… I have seen the Promised Land with my own two eyes, back in 1980…

Khun Joe on September 24, 2011 at 12:08 PM

“They talk to us about the Jewish state, but I respond to them with a final answer: We shall not recognize a Jewish state,” Abbas said in a meeting with some 200 senior representatives of the Palestinian community in the US, shortly before taking the podium and delivering a speech at the United Nations General Assembly.”

Abbas is being absolutely clear. What is so hard to understand?

Clinton may wish to hear different words. Even Netanyahu may want to hear Abbas saying different things. This once, however, he is saying the same thing in English that he says in Arabic: no way, no how, no deal.

MTF on September 24, 2011 at 12:17 PM

The leaders of the Palestinians will never publicly renounce the policy of destroying Israel. They have built their entire society on hatred of Jews, from the cradle to the grave, and if any Palestinian ever did make overtures in the direction of peace he would be torn to shreds by his own people.

And the international community’s diplomatic and financial support of this sick society (and that includes our own support) is making this state of affairs perfectly comfortable for the Palestinians, so it will not change for the foreseeable future.

Socratease on September 24, 2011 at 12:22 PM

Bill Clinton REALLY needs to STFU. He had his chance to make the big score in the Middle East and win his Nobel Peace Prize, and Yasser Arafat screwed him. Seems as though he has never gotten over that and still somehow blames Netanyahu for it. He and Hillary and all of their elitist coterie have always hated Netanyahu, like it is his fault that Israel refuses to roll over and die so he or some other U.S. President can win a Nobel Prize. Such vanity.

rockmom on September 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

Whenever the US or the “quarter” want negotiations to start, they always ask the Israelis to do something to build Palestinian “confidence.” And it’s something specific and measurable, like a freeze on settlements or removing some roadchecks.

The PLO is only asked to make “best efforts” to “reduce” violence from the Palestinians (which they promise, but never really do).

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 11:55 AM

The soft bigotry of low expectations. Palestinians simply are not capable of the sophisticated sort of concessions that the Israelis are, don’tcha know? But by all means, let’s go ahead and give them a state!

**facepalm**

rockmom on September 24, 2011 at 12:48 PM

Let them make the Gaza their new homeland. If they want more land, let the Egyptians and other Arabs give it to them. Israel should throw all the Palestinians out…out of the West Bank. Arabs lost that land fair and square. Israel returned the Gaza and Sinai, and that should be it!

Karmi on September 24, 2011 at 11:15 AM

+1000

rockmom on September 24, 2011 at 12:50 PM

What the heck is with Bill Clinton lately? He’s been mouthing off right and left. As far as I can tell, he’s not involved in any sort of diplomatic capacity in the administration, so he should butt out. Button up his fat mouth. ha.

scalleywag on September 24, 2011 at 1:02 PM

rockmom on September 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

I guess I could have just agreed with your comment!

scalleywag on September 24, 2011 at 1:06 PM

Netanyahu to Clinton: I’m not the one moving the goalposts

Oh yes you are, Bibi. First you didn’t want to be murdered by the PLO. Then the PLO changed its name, and suddenly you didn’t want to be murdered by the Palestinian Authority. Now you don’t want to be murdered by Hamas. I suppose next week you won’t want to be murdered by the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood. It’s always something new with you. An impartial observer could be forgiven for thinking you don’t want to be murdered by anyone at all.

Fabozz on September 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

Now Abbas just come out, again, and said they would not accept a Jewish State, this even though the Jews have been Israel’s people for over 4000 years, and we had another arab PLO spokesman saying that the arabs intend that if they get a 23rd arab state it will be an apartheid state, no Jews allowed.

Please tell me, why is the US government asking the Jews to talk to these racist invaders of Israel??

georgealbert on September 24, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Bill Clinton REALLY needs to STFU. He had his chance to make the big score in the Middle East and win his Nobel Peace Prize, and Yasser Arafat screwed him. Seems as though he has never gotten over that and still somehow blames Netanyahu for it. He and Hillary and all of their elitist coterie have always hated Netanyahu, like it is his fault that Israel refuses to roll over and die so he or some other U.S. President can win a Nobel Prize. Such vanity.

rockmom on September 24, 2011 at 12:45 PM

I recall reading that in the last days of his administration that he was so desperately trying to get “peace” in the middle east that he was practically the diplomat on the middle east desk at State, managing every little detail so he could push for accords.

He wanted the peace prize to get over the impeachment, even if the senate didn’t convict. He still wants to erase it from history by subsequent good deeds through his foundation/slush fund or havcing Hillary achieve mideast peace (for which he will somehow get partial credit).

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 1:56 PM

Please tell me, why is the US government asking the Jews to talk to these racist invaders of Israel??

georgealbert on September 24, 2011 at 1:38 PM

Obama and Hillary want a peace prize. Obama wants one he actually earned. They both want something to distract from the economy in 2012. Killing bin Laden, mideast peace…what a “citizen of the world” Obama is.

Wethal on September 24, 2011 at 1:58 PM

In my Madden Fantasy Sports version of the 2012 election, I’d have a ticket with Bibi Netanyahu/Clone Netanyahu on the R ticket.

Wait…wait…now I need a cigarette.

*slumps in computer chair with a smile*

Laura in Maryland on September 24, 2011 at 2:10 PM

F the Palestinians, and F Clinton.

Midas on September 24, 2011 at 11:04 AM

This.

Yakko77 on September 24, 2011 at 2:21 PM

this is the finest Palestinian government they’ve ever had in the West Bank,” Clinton said.

That isn’t saying much.

Besides…. he wouldn’t know a “fine” government if it jumped up and bit him on the nose.

Where’s Teh Won anyway? Is he in the backseat with Hillary while Bill does the driving here, or what?

UltimateBob on September 24, 2011 at 2:35 PM

Bill Clinton: “[Palestinian leaders] have explicitly said on more than one occasion that if [Netanyahu] put up the deal that was offered to them before — my deal — that they would take it,” Clinton said, referring to the 2000 Camp David deal that Yasser Arafat rejected.

What’s in it for Clinton? Oh yes, I knew there had to be something.

The disgraced Clinton will be seen as a hero by many if Israel surrenders on negotiations with Palestine and blindly accepts “his deal.”

RJL on September 24, 2011 at 3:58 PM

I was listening to the radio this morning and the host told this analogous story that relates to the Jews and Palestinians:
Bob goes into his boss’s office and asks for 10 percent pay raise. His boss says “That’s interesting, Bob, because we were thinking of having you killed”.
Where, exactly, does the negotiation go from there?

SKYFOX on September 26, 2011 at 8:05 AM