by Martin Sherman

Bill Clinton joins bon-ton trend of Bibi-baiting throwing some outrageous ethno-religious slurs of his own into the anti-Israel mix.

Do whatever you want, you and your family in your home, worship whatever you want, but there has not been, nor will be a church [in the kingdom]...
... I do not forget we have 100 percent enmity with Israel. Israel is trying its best to harm the Kingdom in these crucial circumstances.

-- Prince Sultan bin Abd al Aziz of Saudi Arabia at a press conference in Riyadh, March 8, 2003

These excerpts from an address to the media by the Saudi minister of defense and aviation, on the eve of the war in Iraq, epitomize important aspects of the domestic and foreign policies of the desert kingdom — total religious intolerance and obdurate enmity towards Israel.

They also help to highlight the utter absurdity of Bill Clinton's recent rant against Binyamin Netanyahu.

Bill Clinton giving a speech in the USA (Reuters/Jason Cohn)

But I am getting ahead of myself...


During a roundtable with bloggers on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York just before the UN debate on the Palestinians unilateral bid for statehood, the former US president unequivocally laid the blame for the failure of the Mideast peace process on Netanyahu.

Clinton's allegations are as lamentable as they are ludicrous. However, it seems that Bibi-baiting has become such a socially bon-ton imperative that even someone of his international standing feels he cannot abstain from it.

Willfully misleading or woefully misinformed

A brief look at Clinton's jaw-dropping accusations will leave any moderately well-informed reader aghast. They are so wildly inaccurate that one is forced to conclude that he is either woefully misinformed as to Mideast realities or willfully misleading the public as to those realities.

Clinton bemoans the departure of Yitzhak Rabin and Ariel Sharon from the political scene, suggesting that had they remained, peace would have been attained long ago. None of this has any basis in fact.

Netanyahu's proposals to the Palestinians go far beyond anything contemplated by Rabin. Indeed, today if Netanyahu were to embrace, verbatim, Rabin's vision for the permanent solution as expressed in his last address to the Knesset, he would be dismissed as an unreasonable extremist.

Rabin, in this address, delivered after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and showered with international acclaim as a "valiant warrior for peace,"

As Rabin was assassinated shortly after this speech, this was his final articulation of his position on the peace process. Clearly it would never have been accepted by the Palestinians.

Of course it is a matter of speculation whether and how Rabin might have changed his views had he been alive today. However, those believing that he would have abandoned them for a less conciliatory course might feel that their case was considerably strengthened by the recent declaration by his daughter, former deputy defense minister Dalia Rabin, that "on the eve of his death... he was considering a U-turn" and "stopping the Oslo Accords because terrorism was rampant, and... Arafat was not delivering on his promise."

Recalling recalcitrant realities

Moreover, misplaced nostalgia seems to have dulled or distorted Clinton's memory on other matters.

Rabin and Sharon were responsible, for two of the most ill-considered and disastrous policy measures (Oslo and disengagement, respectively) that brought devastation not only on their own country but also to the Palestinians.

Under both of their governments, violence soared to unprecedented levels.

A study conducted by the Institute for Policy and Strategy at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, underscores just how out of touch Clinton's assessment is.

The study, which spans the period from September 1993 to November 2001, shows that in the 30 months after the Accords were signed by Rabin, more Israelis were killed by terrorists (213) than in the preceding decade (209).

Following Rabin's assassination in November 1995, Shimon Peres became prime minister. In his seven-and-a-half months in office, terror fatalities rose even more rapidly. When he was succeeded by Netanyahu, terrorism was reduced dramatically, to almost negligible levels.

Ehud Barak inherited the stability induced by Netanyahu's policies. This was maintained until the latter portion of Barak's term, which coincided with Clinton's 2000 peace initiatives. It was then that things began to go badly wrong.

Almost immediately following Barak's May 2000 pullout from Lebanon, terror began to rise steeply, and in the last six month of his term, the rate of casualties outstripped even that under Peres. The security debacle under Barak led to his defeat in February 2001 by Ariel Sharon, who inherited the bloody instability of his predecessor.

The carnage in Israeli cities, at Israeli restaurants, and on Israeli buses rocketed off the charts, compelling Sharon to abandon his risible "restraint is strength" posture and launch Operation Defensive Shield.

This again brought "West Bank" terror to almost negligible levels which, to date, Netanyahu has managed to maintain in his second term.

Clinton's longing for Sharon curiously ignores that it was Sharon who authored 2005's disastrous disengagement from Gaza, which led to a deluge of rocket and mortar fire on Israeli population centers in the South. The result of this Sharonesque "stroke of genius" was not the advancement of peace, but Operation Cast Lead and more than 1,000 Palestinian fatalities.

So who should Israelis — indeed Clinton, in his pursuit of peace — prefer as prime minister, those whose policies exacerbated violence and bloodshed or those whose policies have managed to maintain calm and stability?

Demography and demagoguery

This brings us to the next outrageous aspect of Clinton's blame-game: The claim that an unfavorable demographic shift in Israel is making the public less amenable to peace.

Incredibly, he ascribes proclivity for peace to ethno-religious origins, making the bald assertion that Israeli society can be divided into demographic groups that have various levels of enthusiasm for making peace.

No kidding. Not much daylight between that and naked racism.

In what might turn out to be a dramatic windfall for the Republicans in their pursuit of the Jewish vote, Clinton announced that "the most pro-peace Israelis are the Arabs."

Ah, if only it wasn't for those pesky peace-obstructing Israeli Jews... Doesn't get much more Judeophobic than that.

One can only puzzle over how Clinton came to this conclusion. Perhaps he missed a 2010 University of Haifa poll of Israeli Arabs which produced the following findings: 66.4% rejected Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state, while 29.5% opposed its existence under any terms; 62.5% saw the Jews as "foreign settlers who do not fit into the region and will eventually leave, when the land will return to the Palestinians" — and 37.8% denied the Holocaust.

So I guess much depends on your definition of "peace."

Clinton goes on to rank the peace-affinities of the various segments of Israeli society: "... second the Sabras, the Jewish Israelis that were born there."

Hmmm. The problem is that about 70% of the Jewish population are native Sabras, Clearly if there was any truth in Clinton's classification, this should make the pro-peace segment overwhelmingly dominant. It certainly should make his rancor over an alleged "unfavorable demographic shift" look ridiculously unfounded.

He continues his assessment of ethno-based peace-compliancy in Israel: "... third, the Ashkenazi of long-standing, the European Jews who came there around the time of Israel's founding."

Ah yes, the "white Jews." So much more enlightened and refined than their primitive bellicose "darky" kinfolk, the Sephardi Jews who emigrated from Asia and North Africa.

It seems inconceivable that a former US president would descend into such racially charged innuendo, but when it comes to Israel, no holds are barred.

Clinton goes on to indict the culprits: "The most anti-peace are the ultra-religious, who believe they're supposed to keep Judea and Samaria, and the settler groups, and what you might call the territorialists, the people who just showed up lately and they're not encumbered by the historical record."

Well, the ultra-religious (or haredim) make up less than 10% of the Israeli population, including a large proportion of young children, who have no voting rights, hardly a dire demographic threat. Indeed they are about half the number of the allegedly "peaceenthused" Israeli Arabs and dwarfed by the peace-conducive Sabras.

So what is Bill's beef demographically?

Moreover, if one bothers to examine the facts one will find that apart from Jerusalem, the ultra-Orthodox are not hard-line territorialists, and Judea and Samaria play almost no part in their political credo as articulated in their party platforms — certainly far less than the line taken by Rabin.

As for "settlers," strangely they have a higher proportion (over 80%) of Sabras than the national average, and are overwhelmingly of Ashkenazi origin. So according to Clintonian classification, the most peace-resistant segment of the population incorporates the most peace-inducive segments?? Go figure.

Racist Russo-phobic recriminations?

As for the "territorialists, the people who "just showed up lately and they're not encumbered by the historical record" — translation immigrants from the former USSR — they have a special place in Clinton's demographic purgatory.

Indeed at last year's Clinton Global Initiative they — rather than Netanyahu — were deemed the villain du jour.

According to Clinton in 2010, the Russian immigrants to Israel emerged as a central obstacle to achieving a Mideast peace. He berated the increasing numbers of Russophone Israelis in the IDF, claiming: "This presents a staggering problem."

Lamenting that realities in Israel cannot be frozen in time, he grumbles that "It's a different Israel" and states with manifest disapproval that "16% of Israelis speak Russian."

Horrors! Imagine that! One might just think that being a Russophone is akin to having some dreaded infection. It certainly seems to have exposed a Russo-phobic tendency in the ex-prez.

The Saudi blueprint for suicide

Clinton not only condemns Israel for what it has allegedly become, but also for what is has allegedly done — or rather not done.

This brings me back to the Saudi issue I broached at the start of the column. Clinton denounces Israel for "moving the goalposts" because it did not embrace the 2002 Saudi Initiative to achieve normalization with the Arab world.

After all, all this required was that Israel agree to the geographically suicidal measure of withdrawing to the indefensible 1967 lines and to the demographically suicidal measure of accepting a Palestinian "right of return." So what's the problem?

In an apparent bid to outdo Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, Clinton declares, "The king of Saudi Arabia started lining up all the Arab countries to say to the Israelis, ‘If you work it out with the Palestinians... we will give you immediately not only recognition but a political, economic, and security partnership... This is huge.... a heck of a deal.'"

Really? Lining up all the Arab countries? Which would those be? Those whose regimes have already been deposed; or those who are engaged in the slaughter of their own citizens to prevent them being deposed? Feel like betting the farm on that?

And what sort on normal relations is he envisaging? Israeli tourists in the Saudi streets sporting yarmulkes and Magen Davids in a country where displaying a cross in a criminal offense? Give us a break.

But just like Alice in Wonderland, it gets curiouser and curiouser. What security cooperation could there with arguably the most Judeophobic country on the planet, the cradle of Wahabism that begot 9/11 and most of the folks who perpetrated it? A country where it is considered more moral to let schoolgirls burn to death than to let them escape a burning dormitory in their nighties? A country which declares itself to "have 100% enmity with Israel" will suddenly embrace the Jewish state because it agreed to set up a micro-mini state for the Palestinians whom the Saudis despise?

Career considerations rather than carnal desires

Just as this article was being submitted for publication, it was reported that the State Department, headed by Clinton's spouse, was distancing itself from his remarks. Looks like another marital spat between the Clintons might be brewing — but now the focus is likely to be Hillary's career considerations rather than Bill's carnal desires.


Martin Sherman is the academic director of the Jerusalem Summit. He lectures at Tel Aviv University, served in Israel's defense establishment and was a ministerial adviser to the Yitzhak Shamir government. He has undergraduate degrees in physics and geology and a doctorate in Political Science and international relations. He has written extensively on water, including "The Politics of Water in the Middle East," London: Macmillan, 1999.

This article appeared September 27, 2011 in the Jerusalem Post

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