Does Netanyahu Want to be Another James Baker?

The Likud's reported behavior is way out of sync with its ideological roots. What's going on?

Ronn Torossian

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Either something is important, or it is not. Either someone is an ally or he is not – and either there is ideology or it is absent.

Let’s take the relationship between America and Israel – sometimes it is great, and sometimes less so. Some years ago, Former American Secretary of State James Baker was excoriated by the Israeli and Jewish media for reportedly having said "F**k the Jews. They don't vote for us anyway." At the time, Baker advised President George H.W. Bush to pressure Israel and deny loan guarantees to Israel unless it agreed to pull out of settlements and stop building them. And Baker is rightfully regarded as no friend of Israel.

In 1971, American President Richard Nixon blamed "the Jews" for the root of his problems – saying that the Jews needed to be brought under control by putting someone "in charge who is not Jewish" in key agencies. And as many said back then, Nixon often saw the Jewish people as an enemy. Nixon and Baker were politicians who cared about Israel and the Jews only when convenient. They weren’t friends of Israel and showed it quite clearly. Clearly, Israel wasn’t a key issue and so they urged compromise and pressured Israel and the Jews.

And similarly, the Likud and Benjamin Netanyahu, if reports are true, have revealed they are no friends of the settlement enterprise. As Israeli media has recently reported, Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Likud have told Bayit Yehudi that they will place a freeze on settlement construction immediately upon the formation of a new government – as "payback" for residents of the Jewish settlements not voting for Likud.

As The Washington Times reported yesterday, in advance of Obama's planned visit, “Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has suspended all housing construction in contested areas of east Jerusalem and the West Bank…and there will be a temporary ban on housing permits.”

Is this not precisely and exactly what James Baker did? Don’t listen to me and I will punish you. The media has reported that the Likud has stated that the settlers will pay for the "betrayal" of the prime minister and Likud. Disgusting and despicable.

Is this an ideological party?
How can the Likud punish something which they supposedly care about? Across the board, Nixon and Baker were condemned for treating their “closest ally”, America in this manner. Is this at all different than how Likud has reportedly said they will treat their “closest ally”, the settlers?

And as “payback”, Hatnua chairwoman Tzipi Livni has been appointed in the Likud government to lead negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

Even people on the right within the Likud have said that they are considering taking the Labor party and Shelly Yechimovich into the government.

Is this an ideological party?

How can the Likud claim any connection to the great Zionist ideologue Ze’ev Jabotinsky? Jabotinsky “declared that settlement of the “land” is the only “law”. He declared: “There is no justice, no law, and no God in heaven, only a single law which decides and supercedes all—- [Jewish] settlement [of the land].”

 Is this the way of the Likud?

The Jewish people have 5,000 years of tradition and that has guided our people until today. The Jewish settlements are either important to political parties or they are not.

It seems that just as Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert both changed their tune when in power in the Likud, Netanyahu has made his hand quite clear on the settlements. Ideology in Netanyahu’s Likud is non-existent. If it’s not politically convenient, it will not matter.

Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, a PR firm. He is also the author of best-selling book “For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations" which has been called “the best book ever on Israel public relations” by MK Danny Danon.