Netanyahu’s Partisan Stink Bomb
October 9, 2014
On Sunday’s Face the Nation, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu charged that he was “baffled” by President Obama’s opposition to expansion of settlements in the Israeli Occupied Territories, a position he said was “against American values.” It was not, however, the first time Prime Minister Netanyahu has either disrespected a sitting President or attempted to inject himself into U.S. domestic politics.
This is, after all, the same Netanyahu who once bragged during a 1998 trip to Washington that he would “set this town on fire” and made a point to first visit Jerry Falwell who at the time was distributing a video accusing President Clinton of selling drugs and being an accomplice to murder. During the Obama administration he has timed the announcement of settlement expansions to coincide with Vice President Biden’s visit to Israel, publicly lectured the President at the White House in front of the press and injected himself in the presidential campaign in fall 2012 by demanding that the U.S. draw a red line on Iran’s nuclear program that if crossed would result in military action.
His latest comments coming less than a month before the election were criticized by Haaretz, Israel’s leading English newspaper, as a “stink bomb” that failed on multiple levels. Haaretz condemned Netanyahu for playing the partisan during our election season when he
slammed the president as if he was a Tea Party brawler rather than the leader of a country with a ‘special relationship’ with America.
Haaretz also criticized the Prime Minister for his
presumptuousness in appointing himself the arbiter of what “reflects American values” and what doesn’t. Just try to imagine the mortified mayhem that would break out if Obama had retorted that construction in East Jerusalem that could kill off the moribund peace process is “un-Jewish” or “un-Israeli” or runs to contrary to “Jewish values.” Israeli politicians would hit the roof, American Jewish leaders would plotz all over the place and Fox News would stop its regular programming in order to foam at the mouth and run John Bolton’s inevitable call for the president’s impeachment in an endless loop.
As the White House diplomatically noted, “it’s American values that led this country’s unwavering support to Israel. It’s American values that have led us to fight for and secure funding to strengthen Israel’s security in tangible ways.”
Flat Out Wrong Bibi
The biggest problem with Netanyahu’s comments are that they are absolutely wrong. Netanyahu knows this, since shortly after taking office he received a letter from Secretaries of State and National Security Advisors for Presidents Carter, Reagan and Bush warning him that unilateral
expansion of settlements, would be strongly counterproductive to the goal of a negotiated solution and, if carried forward, could halt progress made by the peace process over the last two decades. Such a tragic result would threaten the security of Israel, the Palestinians, friendly Arab states, and undermine U.S. interests in the Middle East.
The point is not even debatable, since every President since the 1967 War, from President Johnson to President Obama, has expressed opposition to expansion of the settlements in the Occupied Territories. As explained by the 2001 Mitchell Report,
During the half-century of its existence, Israel has had the strong support of the United States. In international forums, the United States has at times cast the only vote on Israel’s behalf. Yet, even in such a close relationship there are some difficulties. Prominent among those differences is the U.S. government’s long-standing opposition to the Government of Israel’s policies and practices regarding settlements.
American Jewish group J Street noted that Netanyahu’s characterizing
the principled opposition to settlements of every US administration since 1967 – the administrations of Presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama – as being against American values gives new meaning to the word ‘chutzpah.
This latest incident, however, validates the assessment of President Clinton who dealt with Netanyahu when he was first elected following the assassination of Prime Minister Rabin and noted:
He thinks he is the superpower, and we are here to do whatever he requires.
For a leader of a small nation to make such a statement towards its principal benefactor (who not only have provided over $230 billion in aid but have paid the price in blood and economic hardship as a result of actions taken against it for their unwavering support of Israel over the years), it can only be described as a breathtaking affront not only to the President but to all Americans for which he should promptly apologize.
As Margaret Chase Smith noted during the McCarthy era, too often those who invoke “Americanism” don’t have clue about what it truly means and Netanyahu foolishly proved this point. In fact, no Israeli Prime Minister has more consistently thwarted U.S., values and efforts to find peace in the Middle East. So as President Obama looks ahead to his final two years in office, he can only hope that former President Shimon Peres is right when he says “the Netanyahu government has reached the end of its path.”