There's a huge to-do in the blogosphere and political press right now because of this:
Former President Bill Clinton says he agrees that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is "not the guy" for a peace deal.So Bill Clinton is not a fan of Benjamin Netanyahu. Is this really news?
A C-SPAN video -- first reported by Israeli newspaper Haaretz -- shows the 42nd president at Sen. Tom Harkin's Iowa steak fry Sunday speaking with an individual along a rope line.
"Netanyahu himself said that he does not want peace. If we don't force him to make peace, we will not have peace," the man told Clinton in the video.
"First of all, I agree with that. But in 2000, [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak, I got him to agree to something that I'm not sure I could have gotten [former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak] Rabin to agree to, and Rabin was murdered for giving land to the Palestinians," Clinton responded, referring to Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts he brokered during his administration.
"But Netanyahu is not the guy," the unnamed person told Clinton, cutting in.
"I agree with that," Clinton responded. "But they would have gotten 96 percent of the West Bank, land swaps in Gaza, appropriate water rights and East Jerusalem, something that hasn't even been discussed since I left office. And by the way, don't forget, both [former Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat and [Palestinian President Mahmoud] Abbas later tried to say they would take it. They said, 'We changed our minds, we want it now.' But by then, they had a government that wouldn’t give it to them." ...
Here's a 2009 Haaretz article:
Presumably, former president Bill Clinton did not conceal his opinion of Bibi from his wife. If Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has forgotten Bibi's tricks then Dennis Ross, who was the coordinator of the peace process in the Clinton administration ..., can refer her to his book "The Missing Peace."(In Ross's book, that comes out a bit more delicately: "He thinks he is the superpower, and we are here to do whatever he requires.")
There he quotes president Clinton's reaction to Bibi's retreat from a commitment.
"At times he was tough," writes Ross, "yelling at Bibi when he retracted an earlier pledge on Palestinian prisoners. 'This is just chicken shit. I'm not going to put up with this kind of bullshit.'"
Aaron David Miller, who was Ross' deputy, also documented the days of Bibi and Bill. In his book "The Much Too Promised Land," Miller relates that during their first meeting in the summer of 1996, Bibi lectured the president about the Arab-Israeli issue, prompting Clinton to expostulate when it was over, "Who the fuck does he think he is? Who's the fucking superpower here?"
And it's not as if Clinton has taken pains to hide his feelings about Netanyahu. Here's a Foreign Policy report from 2011:
Who's to blame for the continued failure of the Middle East peace process? Former President Bill Clinton said today that it is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- whose government moved the goalposts upon taking power, and whose rise represents a key reason there has been no Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.After Clinton said this, Netanyahu went on (of course) Fox News and appeared totally unfazed:
Clinton, in a roundtable with bloggers today on the sidelines of the Clinton Global Initiative in New York, gave an extensive recounting of the deterioration in the Middle East peace process since he pressed both parties to agree to a final settlement at Camp David in 2000....
"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....
This should not be making headlines. It's an old story.
(And no, I'm not going to address the claim in a recent book that the Netanyahu government had a Clinton-Lewinsky tape and tried to use it as a bribe to get Jonathan Pollard released.)