Friday, August 28, 2009


Silence is golden whether it is a parent trying to get the children to sleep, a librarian trying to quiet down a bunch of rowdy teenagers, or a Prime Minister keeping the details of negotiations a secret.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sat in front of the Israeli press for 45 minutes here on Wednesday, just a few hours after meeting US envoy George Mitchell in London and deflected with great acumen the journalists' repeated attempts to pry out of him any real piece of information about what happened during their four-hour meeting.

One journalist after the next asked the prime minister the same question, but from a slightly different angle: What was agreed upon regarding a settlements freeze?

But try as the journalists may, Netanyahu would say nothing - nothing - about the agreement that is apparently being stitched together.

Much has been written about the purported agreement, with one paper saying that the settlement freeze was linked to a tougher American position on Iran, and another paper saying Netanyahu agreed to a nine-month freeze.

But these reports were largely based on speculation, or on third- and fourth-hand information, because the principles are simply not talking.

The reason for the silence, sources in the Prime Minister's Office explain, is because the negotiations are at such a delicate and sensitive stage that one leak could bring the whole agreement down.

And while there is undoubtedly something to this, there is certainly much more to the prolonged silence - the veritable drought of information on the US-Israeli discussions - and it has to do with Israeli domestic politics.

Netanyahu, a former commando in
Sayeret Matkal, wants to capture the hill without those defending it knowing that he has even arrived.

The less that comes out about the duration of a settlement freeze, or what exactly it will entail, the better it is for Netanyahu from a tactical political standpoint.

There is American phrase that comes to mind: Holding one's cards close to the chest.

Netanyahu is a shrewd man. He can't give Obama and the Arabs what they want, but doesn't want to appear wanting to destroy the "Peace Process". He has to keep the hardliners in his party happy, while preparing an ambush for his political enemies.

Is he bluffing with a pair of deuces, or is he holding a Royal Flush? His opponents can only wonder and guess, while he just sits with his silence.
At a certain point, however, Netanyahu will have to unveil the agreement, and when he does he will certainly face blistering criticism from the Right both in his party, the coalition, and outside of it.

But he will unveil the plan when he sees fit, highlighting what he sees fit, and couching it in terms that will certainly win over much of the public.

And by that time he will be standing squarely on the hill, and his detractors will be able to do little but scream - noise that he will easily deflect.

Netanyahu and his team spoke with Mitchell and his team for four hours on Wednesday. Major diplomatic moves are afoot, with the public knowing little about the details.

And this suits Netanyahu just fine. His hope is that when the details emerge, and his political opponents begin to organize, it will by then be too late: the hill will already be in his hands.
When the smoke clears we can hope and pray that Netanyahu will pull off the Royal Flush or will have capitulated under the pressure from Obama.

Or he just might pull off the greatest bluff of all time.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Why do I have a feeling that neither one of the two things you mention will happen? And that nothing will change in the current stand-off?

Just cause I am old cynic, I guess.