While Yisrael HaYom may be the best paper Sheldon Adelson’s money can buy on behalf of his political fixer, Bibi Netanyahu (and Bibi may be the best Israeli politician Adelson’s money can buy), there are sometimes benefits to reading it. You do get to read the unfiltered Bibi, unfettered by concerns for the sensitivities of his western audience.
For example, after his UN speech he gave an exclusive interview to the newspaper in which he waxed eloquent on the imagined accomplishments of his UN speech. First, he (almost single-handedly to hear him tell it) stopped Palestinian statehood. Second, the rest of the world now “understands” Israel’s views on these matters. Note, he didn’t say “agrees” with Israel, because he knows that would be a lie. But in his skewed view just having the world “understand” Israel’s hard right nationalist outlook is a genuine achievement. Third, Bibi believes, with a straight face no doubt, that he’s done more for peace than Yitzhak Rabin. Don’t ask me how he determines this. I don’t recall any peace treaties he signed, any international agreements he initialed, all of which Rabin did. I suppose Bibi may mean that he kept Israel more secure than Rabin in terms of few terror attacks. But this is a cold peace, not a true peace. Rabin aimed for a true peace and didn’t get there because one of Bibi’s supporters assassinated him.
Later, Bibi clarifies his claim and seems to undermine it completely when he says:
Someone compared the last speech Rabin gave in the Knesset a month before his murder to mine and said I went farther toward peace. In a certain sense this is correct because there is a great willingness within Israeli society to make real strides toward peace.
This is either a total non sequitur or Bibi is admitting that it is not HE who is doing anything for peace, but Israelis themselves who are ready to take steps toward peace.
Bibi pointedly in the interview does not claim that Pres. Obama supports Israel or the Israeli leader’s views. Instead he describes Obama and any American president as a captive of American public opinion which is supposedly completely pro-Israel. In this view, a president could not, even if he wanted to, abandon Israel or even oppose Israel. As proof of that fact, Bibi points to a walk in Central Park with his wife in which not a single person who approached him (through the thicket of his security agents no doubt) had anything but effusive praise for him and for Israel. That’s how Bibi feels the love for Israel in the American body politic–through a walk in the park.
But the most interesting and frightening element of the interview was his comments about Iran. Other reporters have been noting that Bibi lately has been waxing apocalyptic and mystical about the possibly oncoming war with Iran. In this interview he says:
Iran’s nuclear programs are turning it into an existential danger to the State of Israel. The question is not just what Israel is doing to stop it, but what the world is doing. The awareness by the world community that Iran is progressing on a track toward developing a nuclear weapon obligates it to act so that Iran does not get this weapon. With every day that passes, Iran gets closer. The obligation of the international community to act grows as the fear [that Iran progresses toward a bomb] does.
You must keep in mind: that we aspire toward peace; but at the same time we must wield the sword of David to defend the Jewish State.
Of course, in Bibi’s skewed world-view, David’s sword was raised only to defend his people, not in aggression against a victim. But we should keep in mind that David’s sword slew an Israelite enemy and led to the killer’s annointment as King of Israel.
Amos Harel in Haaretz Magazine writes (Hebrew) similarly about Ehud Barak, who would be Bibi’s close partner in any such Iran assault:
Several of those who’ve conversed with him [over the past few months] were shocked by his apocalyptic tone [regarding Iran]. In the case of Barak, the question always arises whether he really means what he’s saying…does he believe that if Israel prepares a military option and threatens persuasively enough, that the world will awaken and take action on its [Israel’s] behalf. But nevertheless, more and more people are worried that Barak is serious, and they are frightened by this.
Bibi (and to a lesser extent, Barak) have a very complicated complex that is little short of messianic and frightening. In the past, I’ve written dismissively about Bibi saying he has no principles and that even his so-called Jewish values appear to be manufactured. Now, I’m not so sure. And I don’t know which is worse, a megalomaniac with no principles or values; or a Jewish megalomaniac with religious-nationalist principles and values. They both scare the living hell out of me.
You’ll recall a blog post I wrote about a column by Shalom Yerushalmi in which he warned Bibi not to engage in any military adventures that would divert attention from the political threat the J14 posed to him. The Eilat terror attack was manna bestowed on the Israeli leader from on high, which did just that. Now, given the disastrous developments Bibi’s faced over the past few months on the world stage, could he use an Iran adventure to divert the world’s attention from his failures? Would such a attack relieve some of the pressure being brought to bear on Israel’s prime minister to compromise on multiple fronts in order to achieve peace in the region?
Now for a dose of reality. Reuters published an evaluation of various sources which gauge how close Iran is to getting a nuclear weapon. The most pessimistic forecast comes from a neocon think tank, whose analysis is disputed by other researchers. It claims that Iran could have enough fissile material to create a bomb in two months. Let’s put aside the fact that this claim is seriously disputed by others. What it also neglects is that having enough uranium to make a bomb is only the first hurdle to surmount. You have to weaponize it, figure out how to detonate it, then figure out how to get it to your target. These are all serious impediments to developing a usable weapon.
In this report, the most balanced observers believe it would take Iran about two years to get to the point where it has not only the enriched uranium, but a detonator, and missile delivery system. So the question needs to be asked: what is so urgent from Bibi and Barak’s point of view that the issue must be dealt with now? Other than the fact that Bibi has driven Israel into a ditch on the world stage and may be desperately searching for a way to distract the world from the fact that he’s made a fool of Israel and himself over developments concerning Palestine, Turkey and Egypt. I’ll leave you to ponder the answer in the comment threads.