That Bibi Netanyahu thinks he’s some smart fella. But he may be too smart by half. First he cooks up a demand that the PA recognize Israel as a Jewish state before he’ll negotiate with it. When George Mitchell swats that one down, he backpedals and claims it wasn’t really a demand, more like a trial balloon.
Now, he’s cooked up one helluva bizarre scenario: he’s telling the Obama administration that Israel can’t possibly engage the Palestinian issue till the U.S. first solves the problem of Iranian nukes. Don’t ask why or how those two issues are so inextricably related that you can’t do one without first doing the other. In the Washington Post, Danny Ayalon is quoted making this far-fetched linkage:
“If we want to have a real political process with the Palestinians, then you can’t have the Iranians undermining and sabotaging.”
Um, yeah right. You couldn’t possibly have Israel negotiating for the creation of a Palestinian state because the Iranians will—what will they do? Welcome it with open arms perhaps? I mean, get real. If a Palestinian state was created the Iranians would lose their main reason for conflict with Israel.
Furthermore, Bibi picks the very day on which Obama tells Jordan’s King Abdullah that he is looking for gestures of good faith from both Israelis and Palestinians to unload this steaming load of tripe. You couldn’t ask for better timing.
The Post article continues:
Netanyahu’s aides argue, Iran poses a much more immediate threat [than Palestine].
“Realistically, we need to keep Iran at bay,” Ayalon said…”The Iranian clock should be measured in months,” he said in reference to Israel’s view that the Islamic republic is approaching the ability to make a nuclear weapon. By contrast, the timetable on Palestinian statehood “is open-ended.”
Once again, we have a formulation that will be decisively rejected by Obama. He has signaled precisely the opposite, that Palestinian statehood is NOT open-ended. But rather it is an issue that must be resolved and with all due speed.
This brings up an important issue: why has Bibi latched onto Iran as the bogeyman of choice? Recently, Phil Weiss noted this important passage from Trita Parsi’s book on this question:
…Efraim Inbar, an Israeli at the conservative Begin-Sadat Center in Jerusalem…told Parsi…
“There was a feeling in Israel that because of the end of the Cold War, relations with the U.S. were cooling and we needed some new glue for the alliance… And the new glue… was radical Islam. And Iran was radical Islam.”
In other words, Iran serves for the Israeli political and military establishment precisely the same role as the Soviet Union played for U.S. cold warriors. If Iran didn’t exist, Israeli pols would have to create it or a suitable replacement. Bibi is using Iran as a diversionary tactic to distract the world from Israel’s refusal to address the conflict with the Palestinians. This approach has the added benefit of forcing the U.S. into the tight embrace of Israel, as neither state wishes to see a nuclear Iran.
Getting back to Bibi-Barack relations, this new Israeli policy of the moment is a definite non-starter. In fact, Obama and his peace envoy, George Mitchell, will swat this down as vigorously as they did the Jewish state trial balloon.
M.J. Rosenberg writes persuasively that Bibi is getting off to a horrid start as Israeli prime minister. He’s choosing a different path than more astute figures like Ariel Sharon, who made nice with George Bush and proceeded to do whatever he wanted. Bibi seems to want a confrontation. Either that, or he’s the most tone deaf Israeli prime minister in a generation or more.
For the life of me I can’t see what he gains by such confrontation. Israel is not China or Russia. It does not have the strategic significance or power to face down an American president. Unless Bibi believes, as M.J. suggests, that the Israel lobby will pull this out of the fire for him. He may believe that by provoking a fight with the new administration he will draw out his allies in the lobby and on Capitol Hill to make life a living hell for Obama. Perhaps this is his method to get the president to back off. If it is, it won’t work. It’s so patently transparent, and Obama’s popularity is so high, that crossing him is a recipe for failure.
No doubt Bibi is in a fit of pique with Obama cancelling his White House audience, which was to coincide with the prime minister’s triumphal appearance at the annual Aipac national policy conference. So it’s entirely possible that at least part of this is payback, with Netanyahu deliberately making life miserable in return for his snub.
The final coup de grace of this article displaying the delusional thinking that permeates the current Israeli administration, is in this passage:
Israeli analysts and Netanyahu’s advisers say that while his focus on Iran may limit the likelihood of any near-term progress toward Palestinian statehood, it opens the door for a broader and more profound step forward if Obama and the Arab states agree with his view of Iran.
If you didn’t know better you’d think Bibi was king and the U.S. and Arabs but mere vassal states to whom he could dictate policy. The fact that Israel is the satellite and hardly in any position to dictate anything to anyone seems to have eluded Netanyahu. Bibi is the poker player who’s “got nuthin'” (to quote the gangster movies) but tries to bluff the other players into believing he has a full house.
The delusion continues with this statement from a policy hack affiliated with Dore Gold’s pro-Likud think tank (Gold is one of the candidates to become the new ambassador to the U.S.):
Netanyahu’s approach “completely recalibrates expectations and understandings about where we really are,” said Dan Diker, a senior foreign policy analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a think tank that is close to the Netanyahu administration. “We can only address the region in the context of an ascendant Iran that is close to nuclear weapons and is destabilizing nearly every country in the Middle East.”
At this point, someone has to tell the Israelis the bad news that if anyone is destabilizing the Middle East it is Israel just as much or more than Iran.
Miles Stuart says
Do we know where that Yediot Achronot report came from now?
What we are seeing here is Obama and Netanyahu feeling out how much real power each has to direct the policy of the United States.
I’m sure Hamas and even Hezbollah would happily give up Iranian aid in return for the Western community compelling Israel to obey the law.
Iran is an excuse and not a reason. Does anyone seriously imagine that when the Iranian issues are resolved some other pretext will not be found to forestall the next Palestinian ‘peace offensive’?
I think what you and Rosenberg are suggesting is right. Bibi is deliberately looking to confront Obama and try and excite the Lobby and the lunatic Christian Right.
Remember that in his first US visit at PM in 1996, during the US election campaign, he delivered a Republican stump speech in front of both houses of Congress.
Clinton has never forgotten that, and the first Bibi term was also the first in history when the White House seemed friendlier to the Palestinians than to the Israeli government.
Now, Bibi think Bush has changed everything (he’s right in a sense, but not in this). He believes religiously in the Lobby’s power. He is the Israeli leader who elevated the alliance with America’s Christian Right.
Seems like he has been neither learning the Clinton lesson, nor paying attention to processes in America, esp. among American Jews.
It will be an interesting show… as usual with I-P.
….also, don’t forget that in Israeli and proxy-Israeli circles, there was this huge virulent anti-Obama campaign before the elections. I think Bibi is bought into the idea that there is some “silent majority” in America that is as deeply suspicious of Obama as these emails suggest, and that therefore he can twist Obama’s arm around this vulnerability.
I think it goes, like, totally the other way. But we’ll see.
“why has Bibi latched onto Iran as the bogeyman of choice?”
Could it be that Iran desires the destruction of Israel and arms it’s enemies Hezbollah and Hamas?
Arie Brand says
The motivation suggested by Trita Parsi’s book (see Richard’s introduction above) seems far more credible to me.
Here’s a more optimistic option for Bibi’s behavior. Not an explanation that is very likely, but I’ll cite it “for completeness”. Perhaps what motivates him is the realization that now is his last chance to go down in history as someone who brought peace to Israel, maybe even get a Nobel prize for that. But in order to negotiate and strike a deal, he must appear screaming and kicking as he does so, so that the coalition doesn’t disintegrate.
Yossi Sarid, in a hilarious polemic, argues that sometimes evil is good for the Jews:
Finally, he has some advice for Bibi:
In response to your question ““why has Bibi latched onto Iran as the bogeyman of choice?” I think he, and wll those who target him are making a mistake. He is not israel’s problems’ any more then he should be saudi, jordanian, french or german problem. here’s an interesting take from a leaing saudi paper:
Ahmadinejad was Addressing the Arabs
Why does everyone assume that a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza would be a good thing? We need only look at Gaza to see what it would really be like — a means to the end of destroying Israel by whatever means necessary. There is no serious desire among Palestinians to live in such a state peacefully beside Israel. Just ask them.
Richard Silverstein says
You clearly haven’t and don’t have a clue what any Palestinian believes.