President Barack Obama and his wife stood in a moment of silence outside the White House at 8:46 a.m. on the morning of September 11, a sacred day of its own in this country. At the same time in Jerusalem, Benjamin Netanyahu pointedly assailed his presumed ally, the Obama administration, over its reluctance to set “red lines” to prevent Iran from any further uranium enrichment program.
Exactly which regime change does Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have in mind — Iran’s or that of the United States, specifically with the ascent of his old/new pal Mitt Romney to the White House? Romney blatantly is willing to outsource the making of our Israel policy allowing Netanyahu to advance his agenda, an agenda not only not ours, but probably not a majority of Israelis’. Like everything else, Netanyahu’s policies are always subordinated to his political needs. He lost his office once before, losing the microphone and perks he so cherishes. He is determined not to allow that again.
We need not look back too far in history to realize the danger of handing blank checks to client states. In 1914, the lights went out all over Europe as its nations embarked on a war that eventually spread to the rest of the world, lasting until 1945. The war resulted when the Great Powers, England, Germany, and Russia, blindly supported the extremist ambitions of their feeble client nations, Serbia and Austria. The long-range results were catastrophic, far beyond any anticipated, including the Holocaust, which Netanyahu twists into an all-purpose rationalization for Israeli behavior.
Netanyahu’s remarks smack of his usual political opportunism and willingness to interfere in American domestic affairs. This is from a man who supposedly understands the United States. Netanyahu’s own political problems are myriad, with his willingness to appease the extreme right-wing and racist allies in his coalition, the settlers, and a collection of war hawks, eager to stand up to the United States, suffering as they do from their perceived client status. Probably a majority of Israelis are reluctant to attack Iran, but that is not the nature of Israeli politics. The prime minister stirs the pot to maintain his political alliances. Such is his definition of leadership. The usual suspects of American allies, Senators Joseph Lieberman, John McCain, and Lindsay Graham, sing in the Romney chorus, with Lieberman proclaiming that this will seal the deal for Obama to lose Florida.
Make no mistake: domestic politics are very much in play. The White House hurriedly announced that the president had spoken with the prime minister for an hour “as part of their ongoing consultations.” We received the usual boilerplate confirming American determination to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon and they agreed to continue their “close consultations.” The statement gratuitously concluded that Netanyahu never requested a meeting with Obama in Washington. What a wonderful way to invoke “plausible deniability.”
In measuring the political calculus, Israel is no different than we. Friends and opponents alike threaten Netanyahu. He plays his moral authority and a stiff neck to the Americans to overcome any criticism. Dan Meridor, Netanyahu’s deputy prime minister for intelligence and atomic affairs, and certainly no peacenik, bluntly undercut the PM, telling Israeli Army radio, “I don’t want to set red lines or deadlines for myself.” The Kadima opposition leader, Shaul Mofaz, strongly criticized the Prime Minister but some of his party members worried he may have gone too far and cost the party votes. After all, as one said, Netanyahu is more popular than Obama in Israel.
Netanyahu is coming to the United States ostensibly to address the UN; of course he and his American supporters wanted the legitimacy of a White House meeting. Why else would Netanyahu come to the United States? To speak to all of his close friends and allies at the UN, who tuned him out long ago? Sheldon Adelson, his best money friend, is in Las Vegas. The trip to New York is hardly a subtle provocation. It deserves the back of the president’s hand, and not such a polite one.
Dennis Ross, the American special envoy to the Middle East for many years, in his book, The Missing Peace, quotes President Bill Clinton as telling his aides after his first meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu in July 1996 that “he thinks he is the superpower and we are here to do whatever he requires.”
As Israel has isolated itself further from the international community, they have mostly themselves to blame. But the United States likewise has much to answer for because of its long-standing indulgence of extreme Israeli views, and worse yet, to their small, well-financed, well-placed, and shrill supporters in the United States. Why is the Obama administration so diffident toward Ross, an AIPAC man, who periodically doubles as the president’s Middle Eastern adviser, or even to the deservedly out of power neo-con crowd, including Elliott Abrams, Paul Wolfowitz, Charles Krauthammer, et al. Why are they so fearful of Eric Cantor, AIPAC’s favorite Capitol Hill shill?
The Israeli prime minister’s blustering demands for his way while threatening the possibility of Israel’s annihilation — or, in one of his more inelegant statements, the prospect of “Auschwitz” — is a false choice. Israel remains militarily powerful; its economy is innovative and prosperous; and it has American guarantees for its security, not to mention a treasure of aid and bribes. Netanyahu would be well advised to look to his own “tsouris,” and deal with the blood sport of Israeli politics rather than meddle in ours.
Netanyahu should reflect on what he wishes for. His postures have provoked unprecedented critical American media reaction, focusing on matters rarely raised, including the American military’s forceful opposition in 2006, and again this year, to any military action against Iran, or in any way enabling an Israeli attack. The media now reports the opposition within Israeli intelligence and military circles to any attack on Iran because Israel lacks the bomb power, and even if it did, the Iranians only would rebuild. They offer a withering critique of Netanyahu’s blatant interference in U.S. domestic politics, and they tell of the Netanyahu’s egomaniacal press “conferences,” which brook no opposition or criticism. Altogether, a rather refreshing moment which should give Netanyahu real pause.
For nearly seven decades, American Jews have walked a fine line on the issue of dual loyalties. One thing is certain: they will not support Israel or any nation that so blatantly interferes in our domestic affairs. On the whole, they have managed that line quite well, acknowledging at once their emotional attachment to the Land of Israel, supporting its militarily and needs, probably beyond what actually may be needed, and they have created a lobby that rivals the force and power of the NRA.
Yet American Jews are on record as opposing the harsh brutality of the occupation — except when AIPAC or the likes of the Israeli government overwhelms their voice. They have accepted the dubious support of fundamentalist Christians, even those whose root ideology favors the return of all Jews to Israel to ensure the Second Coming. Polls consistently reveal that American Jewry’s doubts about American policy to Israel is marginalized in single figures. Any charge of disloyalty simply cannot hold water.
Republished with the author’s permission from Huffington Post.
Published: Tuesday, 18 September 2012