Bibi’s Futile Divide and Conquer Strategy Between Republican Congress and Obama
Some of you may’ve erroneously thought Bibi Netanyahu was the leader of Israel’s Likud party. But you’d be wrong. He’s actually a Republican representing the U.S.’s 51st state, Israel. How else to explain the fact that Bibi has given up on having any relationship or impact on Pres. Obama and thrown in his lot with the Republican led Congress, which has invited him to address a joint session and lay out his “bold, new” plan for peace.
As Helen Cooper writes in today’s NY Times, even Bibi knows he’s not going to say anything substantive or persuasive to anyone but his own right-wing back home. But that’s not the purpose of the speech. Its real purpose is to pre-empt a (from Bibi’s point of view) far harsher new plan from the Obama administration which Hillary Clinton has been advocating:
Mr. Netanyahu, fearful that his country would lose ground with any Obama administration plan, has been considering whether to pre-empt the White House with a proposal of his own, before a friendly United States Congress, according to American officials and diplomats from the region.
“People seem to think that whoever goes first gets the upper hand,” said Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator…“If Bibi went first and didn’t lay out a bold peace plan, it would be harder for Obama to say, actually, despite what you said to Congress and their applause, this is what I think you should do.”
The political gamesmanship between the two men illustrates how the calculation in the Middle East has changed for a variety of reasons, including the political upheaval in the Arab world. But it also shows the lack of trust and what some officials say is personal animosity between Mr. Obama and Mr. Netanyahu.
Bibi is under the deeply mistaken impression that he can divide and conquer by setting a Republican Congress against a “hostile” president. He seems to forget that it is the latter who determines foreign policy and not the former. It seems astonishing to me, in that regard, the Congressional Republicans are interjecting themselves directly into a such a debate in a deliberate attempt to upstage the president. It used to be that the Congress respected the executive branch’s prerogative to make foreign policy. Not any more obviously.
I think it can only be disastrous for Obama to lay out a new policy initiative regarding Israeli-Palestinian peace talks without committing to do whatever it takes to ensure they will succeed. Clearly, Obama does not have such will and may never have. Nor does he have the political capital to enforce his will domestically by staking out such a bold position. He essentially spent all his capital when he backed a failed effort for a settlement freeze.
The Times article notes that one of the “terms of reference” of a possible new Obama speech would be a demand that Palestinians give up the Right of Return. This is actually a step backwards from negotiations between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, in which the former conceded Israeli recognition of ROR (though in more a symbolic than substantive way). To have the U.S. backtrack on that is more than disheartening. It will leave Palestinians cold and leave the U.S. out in the cold as a viable player in the I-P peace process.
The best Obama can do is to allow an international campaign to take shape calling for a Palestinian state to be created in 1967 borders. As such an effort gathers steam, he might be able to contribute to it in some way (rather than stymie it as Israel would hope and expect). I’m sorry to say there is little more that can be expected from the U.S.
Bibi’s upcoming address to Congress is an implicit expression of disdain for Pres. Obama. The American people, those who care about the Middle East, will sense this and they will not take kindly to it. They don’t cotton to foreign leaders trying to play one branch off against another. It seems too cute by half.
The Israeli leader is taking a calculated risk believing that the new Republican Congress has sufficiently weakened Obama that there is little he can do to impose his will on Israel. This may be true. But there is much that Obama can refuse to do that can harm Likudist interests as well. He could refuse to lobby strenuously against a General Assembly vote endorsing Palestinian statehood. He could tacitly encourage the EU to recognize a Palestinian state. He could decide not to fight efforts to sanction Israel for refusing to recognize a Palestinian state. I don’t see Obama doing this yet. But the time may come…
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When, early this morning, I read the front-page article in the Times about Netanyahu’s invitation from the Republicans, I found it difficult to believe that this patent and egregious ploy to denigrate and weaken an American President could actually be so. But apparently it is. What an ass this Netanyahu is, and what a stable of asses our Republicans in the House are! I do hope, Richard, that these words of yours are accurate: “Bibi’s upcoming address to Congress is an implicit expression of disdain for Pres. Obama. The American people, those who care about the Middle East, will sense this and they will not take kindly to it. They don’t cotton to foreign leaders trying to play one branch off against another. It seems too cute by half.” No doubt many Americans will be appalled and resentful of Netanyahu and his Congressional colleagues. But may I also point out that more than half of the Republican electorate believe Obama is not an American citizen? And there are in this country a number of very far-right Republican Jews, some of real wealth and significance, who will probably consider this no less than God’s own work. There was a time when all politics stopped at the water’s edge, but such hoary rules no longer apply to our leading corporatist political party. Unfortunately, Obama has been so thirsty for bipartisanship for reasons of politics as well probably as of his own character that he will drink almost anything. I believe our best hope, as you put it, Richard, in this latest planned outrage is that “there is much that Obama can refuse to do that can harm Likudist interests as well. He could refuse to lobby strenuously against a General Assembly vote endorsing Palestinian statehood. He could tacitly encourage the EU to recognize a Palestinian state. He could decide not to fight efforts to sanction Israel for refusing to recognize a Palestinian state.” One wonders.
who made the invitation ? i assume it was john boehner, who is the speaker of the house.
does this mean it was the republicans, or is it possible to say that it was a congressional invitation from the speaker of the house ?
was the invitation decscribed by boehner as coming from republicans ?
btw, i am in israel.
and what you say about bib, i will say a hundred folds about american presidents.
clinton sent political advisers in 1999 before the elections, they went to help barak be elected.
obama acts in concert with the leading opposition party in israel.
don’t be angry at netanyahu, just accept that what you give is what you get.
It was a purely Republican exercise. Boehner invited him as Speaker, which is a partisan position. It will be a Joint Session of Congress so all members will be invited. Democrats will have to attend because otherwise Aipac would hold it against them & use it in future election campaigns.
Obama is not acting in concert with any Israeli opposition because there is none. Who is the opposition? Labor? What Labor? Meretz? GImme a break. There is no opposition.
Don’t be angry at Bibi? For ruining yr country? Of course not. I’ll blame the chief rabbi or the moon. More likely culprits.
I don’t understand why you differentiate between a Republican and a Democratic congress. They are identical – was it any different when the Dems controlled the congress? Both are owned by the Lobby, as is Obama. Don’t count on Obama for all the things you hope he could or might do. He too is owned by the same people that own the congress. This is nothing but perception management and facade. A lot of words signifying nothing.
How very déjà vu! As in 2000, when those of advanced political wisdom declared that it mattered not at all that Bush was finally selected, there being no difference between Republicans and Democrats. I wish the differences were far greater on many issues, and it is true that on Israeli, and for that matter, AIPAC transgression, there is little, if any, difference of expressed opinion and action. Here we agree. However, I do hope that when you declare that Republicans and Democrats “are identical”, you restrict such accusation to the almost unanimous congressional views on Israel.
@ weindeb: Absolutely not. Identical on every policy – economy, perpetual war, health care, education, etc. The US government has been co-opted by a form of corporate fascism. What has Obama and his Democratic congressional fellow travelers done to rectify the ills that Bush & Co. rained on this country? Nothing. On the contrary, they have out-Bushed Bush.
No use volleying back and forth too much on this one. I’m simply not sure that such an absolute declaration of yours totally equating Republicans and Democrats, and not, for instance, distinguishing between a Blue-Dog Dem and the other kind can be challenged by reason and fact. Your stand, seems to me, is simply, well, adolescent. Do you live in the States and/or do you regularly read what really goes on here, or are you so thoroughly immersed in the ubiquitous corporatist/fascist attitude and modus operandi as to be indifferent to anything but? And by the way, I actually agree with you that our nation is, and has been, hell bent for leather, an ongoing victim of corporatism à la the 1920s. But beware of all absolutes, Sir, including absolute observations. They have a way of blinding their adherents, and Republicans and Democrats are NOT “identical on every policy.” Really.
Yes, Gene is an absolutist. To his detriment it seems to me in being a more credible source of opinion.
http://www.tomdispatch.com/No “Sir”, I do not live in the States, but I am still a US citizen, and a VERY close observer of the changes that have taken place in the US during the forty years I have been residing in Switzerland. During my active business life I regularly spent time in the US and was able to compare life there prior to the Reagan administration to what it is now. Anyone who cannot recognize those changes for the worst, can only be subject to political blindness or in complete voluntary denial. I am not an absolutist, and for a long while believed that the changes I speak of could be reversed via the ballot box. But since the coup d’etat of the 2000 Bush administration, I have recognized that reversal is impossible. Indeed, there are many progressives (some still in the Democratic party) that are trying to overcome, but I am convinced that for the near future their cause is lost. And it is people like you, Sir, and Richard, who cannot see that Obama and the majority of the Democratic party have sold out to the corporate elite, for pecuniary and other reasons, only aid in perpetuating America’s decline. All of my time living overseas as an expat was devoted to active politics on behalf of Americans overseas, through various expat organizations such as American Citizens Abroad, of which my closest friend was the founder, and I am founding Fellow of the Overseas American Academy, which is a think tank that addresses itself to American issues of policy, taxation and society. I am as well read on the issues as anyone, and I do not come to my opinions lightly. On the subject of Israel, I am a secular Jew who is appalled by America’s relationship to Israel and its all-out support for Zionist attempts to ethnically cleanse Palestine. And I am equally as well informed on this subject as I am the above. Thus, though I believe Richard has his heart in the right place I often disagree with many of his posts. It is because I consider myself a patriotic American that I feel that I have the right to dissent on both issues. You may not agree with my opinions, but please do not imply that I don’t know what I am talking about. Thank you.
PS – I would strongly recommend that you read the following Noam Chomsky article at http://www.tomdispatch.com/
Richard, why is it you no longer have a share button at the end of your posts?
I do. The graphics have changed. Click on all of the icons & you’ll see the green one which is the Share button.
Pls. be more specific. I see no icons, green or otherwise, to click on.
There are 6 small icons at the bottom of every post. The Share button is the 3rd from the left.
I’m sorry to bother you. Perhaps it is my machine that is at fault, but I can find no icons. The only thing I have, for example at the bottom of this post, is only: “Posted in Mideast Peace/ 18 comments.” Similar for all other posts – no icons to click on.
Am I the only one who has mentioned this?
What browser are you using.
@ Gene Schulman)
My screen is as Richard descibes it, but then I read the article on the front page, and only click when I want to read the comments. If you entrer the article directly, you’re right, there are no icons. Was my non-technical explanation understandable ?
Sorry, I didn’t realize that. I’ll try to look into that & find out why the icons don’t appear on the post’s page.
@ Deir Yassin,
Thanks for your explanation, but I still can’t find any icons. Up to about two weeks ago I could, but since then, zero. My screen is as I described it above. Perhaps something happened on my MacBook that I can’t understand. I’ve got a techie coming over tomorrow, maybe he can help me find the solution. If I WERE an adolescent as Weindeb accused me of being, perhaps I could solve it myself, but I’m an old f… who came to this technology late in life, and still don’t grasp the hang of it. Or perhaps it’s the “absolutism” in me.
Apologies, Richard, for taking up so much off-subject space.
Quite all right. I want to know about technical issues like this because they affect more than just you.
Icons back up. Don’t know how it happened. My techie friend was as non-plussed as I. But when I looked at it tonight, there they were. Did you do something? If so, thanks.
I found this analysis by Noam Sheizaf quite enlightning: http://972mag.com/pm-netanyahu-is-cornerd-and-the-us-shouldnt-save-him/
He suggests that the US should disengage and let the Europeans take the lead:
“From a US perspective, it’s very simple: Stay out of the way, and let others take the lead. European leaders are not facing the unique political difficulties an American president has to overcome when dealing with Israel. The international community can apply effective pressure on Jerusalem, and such pressure can change the political dynamic here. Netanyahu’s recent troubles at home may suggest that in a way, it’s already happening.”
Sounds good to me.
Incidentally, I have always thought that Netanyahu was an out-and-out Republican.
Everything is coming to a head. The next twenty four days are crucial. This time was prophesied to unfold. The geometries are shifting at light speed right now. Hang on to your seats everyone. Prayer, vigilance and right action will see us all through.
Can you be less cryptical and explain what you mean?
He’s a messianic Chabadnik with a New Age edge. Hence the cryptic comment. I think the Rebbe’s coming back is what he’s trying to get at.
Sorry. I mistook Adam N. for an end-of-days Christian. They insist that President Obama is “the anti-christ” and that all the various metaphors in Revelations are literal predictions…and that they see the various “signs” right now. “Don’t be Left Behind”…or something like that.
He might be a Jew for Jesus for all I know. His nickname does include the word Moshiach (Messiah). I just figured he was messianic Chabad since his politics as far as I can make it out, seems right wing.
The best Obama can do is to allow an international campaign to take shape calling for a Palestinian state to be created in 1967 borders
§204 of “The Restatement of the Law (Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States” explains that, under the Constitution of the United States, the President has exclusive authority to recognize or not to recognize a foreign state or government and to recognize foreign sovereignty over territory.
The Congress has challenged the Chief Executive in court cases dating back to the 19th century, but the Supreme Court finally ruled in United States v Belmont, 301, US 324, 57 S Ct. 758, 81 L.Ed. 1134 (1937) that the President has the constitutional authority to conclude international agreements related to recognition without authorization from Congress or consent of the Senate.
Even if Obama doesn’t get re-elected, there is nothing to prevent a lame duck President from recognizing the state of Palestine within the 67 borders to enhance his legacy. Unlike diplomatic recognition, Article 6 of the Montevideo Convention stipulates that recognition of statehood is irrevocable. The US is a contracting party to that Convention, and it is still listed by the US State Department as a Treaty in Force.
Cantor, Netanyahu, and AIPAC would be wise to leave well enough alone.
Doing this – setting a Republican Congress against a Democratic President – was more or less the first thing Bibi ever did when elected PM in 1996. The stage was also identical – a joint session of Congress.
That move back then, blacklisted him with Clinton and eventually led to Bibi getting unceremoniously kicked out by Israeli voters.
But I guess you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Over-reaching seems to be the name of the game for the right-wing all around the globe this year. Hopefully the well-earned backlash will be swift and punishing enough.