Prime Minister Netanyahu sent out for his meeting last Tuesday with President Clinton, he had been warned to expect the worst.
He had been told that he would get a "no frills" reception (no lunch or use of Blair House as a guest -- the opposite
was true for Arafat) and to be prepared for some really rough treatment from Mr. Clinton. And, from all reports, he
was not misinformed.
For weeks, an obvious Clinton Administration orchestrated media attack had conditioned public opinion.
News stories circulated about how President Clinton was furious with the recalcitrant Netanyahu who had caused the breakdown
of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Other stories quoted Clinton aides as saying that the president
planned to show his displeasure with Mr. Netanyahu at their upcoming meeting and to follow up with some forceful intimidation.
And we all remember President Clinton's infamous snub of the Prime Minister last month.
According to The New York Times, Mr. Clinton greeted the Prime Minister "icily" and, during the course of the
meeting, the President reportedly dismissed the Prime Minister's position that the size of any further Israeli redeployment
in the West Bank prior to "final-status" negotiations would be determined by Israel alone and would, in any event,
be contingent on actual performance by the Palestinians of their Oslo commitments, particularly in the area of eliminating
terrorism. The Palestinians insist on withdrawal now, with the size to be determined by both Israel and the Palestinians.
The Times says also that the President acknowledged that the Israeli interpretation of Oslo
is "legally correct" but insisted that the "spirit" of the Oslo Accords means that "Palestinian concerns
and sensitivities should also be taken into account." Mr. Netanyahu and his aides were reportedly "shaken"
by the cold arbitrariness of the President and braced themselves for what was to come.
But that was last Tuesday,
the day before the Wednesday of the Monica Lewinsky eruption. This is what Tom Friedman had to say about the development
in a column in The Times entitled, "A Crippled Policy":
"By week's end, when Yasir Arafat arrived, that all too rare, blunt, put-your-cards-on-the-table approach to foreign
policy evinced by the President earlier in the week [in his meeting with PM Netanyahu] seemed to peter out. Mr. Arafat
left muttering about his bad luck; Bibi went home speaking warmly of a President now too wounded to be a threat to him.
"Yasir, you're not alone. At a moment when a host of major foreign issues are about to surface as Congress
returns from recess, Mr. Clinton is going to be distracted at best and indicted at worst. Farewell Madeleine [Albright],
Indeed, most pundits predict that President Clinton will be hard-pressed to continue to lean on Israel
if only out of fear of alienating an important component of the American political system, since, on its face, the Clinton
position favoring the Palestinians and seeking to coerce Israel defies logic.
How did this stunning about-face
Ashraf al-Agrami, a columnist for the Palestinian daily Al-Ayyam, asked, "Why did it come at
the end of Clinton's meetings with Netanyahu and before his meeting with Arafat?" And he darkly suggested a
plot as a possible answer. Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the spiritual leader of Hamas,
was more direct: "The Zionist lobby and world Zionism creates disasters for anyone who may cause of problems."
the circumstances, we, however, are drawn to the interesting phrasing in the second verse in this week's portion, Parashat
Bo (Exodus 10:2). In the midst of the plagues Hashem
declared to Moses that He had hardened the heart of Pharoah in order to publicly demonstrate His power, "Ulema'an tesapper be'oznei vincha uven bincha et asher hit'allalti beMitzrayim ve'et ototai asher
samti vam, viyda'tem ki Ani Hashem (so that you may tell in the ears of your son and your son's son how I made
a mockery of the Egyptians, and [that you may tell of] My signs that I placed among them, and you will know that I am the
The words "Et asher hit'allalti beMitzrayim"
("How I made a mockery of the Egyptians") point to something more than just retribution for the oppressors of the
Jews of Egypt. The verse adds the dimension of humiliation.
(From The Jewish Press, Friday 30 January 1998, pages 5 & 82. Scanned image of clippings appear below.)