Netanyahu GOP Policy in Tatters, he snubs White House Invitation

by Juan Cole Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) and many other works. He has translated works of Lebanese-American author Kahlil Gibran. He has been a regular guest on PBS's Lehrer News Hour, and has also appeared on ABC Nightly News, Nightline, the Today Show, Charlie Rose, Anderson Cooper 360, Rachel Maddow, the Colbert Report, Democracy Now! and many others. He has given many radio and press interviews. He has written widely about Egypt, Iran, Iraq, and South Asia. He has commented extensively on al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the Iraq War, the politics of Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iranian domestic struggles, the Arab Spring and its aftermath, and foreign affairs. He has a regular column at He continues to study and write about contemporary Islamic movements, whether mainstream or radical, whether Sunni and Salafi or Shi`ite. Cole commands Arabic, Persian and Urdu and reads some Turkish, knows both Middle Eastern and South Asian Islam. He lived in various parts of the Muslim world for nearly 10 years, and continues to travel widely there. 09.03.2016

A year ago, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu intervened in US politics in a big way, addressing a Republican-dominated Congress and lobbying it against the UN Security Council deal with Iran forestalling that country’s civilian nuclear research program from ever becoming militarized.

Netanyahu’s startling direct intervention in US policy-making crashed and burned, since President Obama was able to sign on to the JCPOA last summer and make it stick. Republicans were unable to undo the deal, then or ever after.

That Netanyahu functions as a US Republican even as he heads a foreign state disturbed many prominent Democrats, including pro-Israel ones.

Now Netanyahu has canceled his annual trip to appear at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Not only has he bailed on AIPAC, but he thereby more or less declined a White House dinner invitation.

One possible reason for Netanyahu’s absence is that, having declared himself an active Republican last year, he would inevitably be asked this year which of the candidates he supports.

That brings us to the other problem with the GOPization of Israel, which is that the frontrunner, Donald Trump, speaks of being even-handed as between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which is against everything Netanyahuism stands for.

Trump does not need the donations of rightwing Jewish Americans such as Sheldon Adelson, and nor are they being proffered to him.

Chemi Shalev of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz (The Land) thinks that American Jews on the whole won’t vote for Trump because of his far rightwing rhetoric. Most American Jews are diehard Democrats, and many are liberals and leftists. A small minority, mostly very wealthy, votes Republican, but that proportion could virtually evaporate with a Trump candidacy.

The unwisdom of Netanyahu arrogantly putting himself at the center of US policy-making and of his siding so openly with one party over the other is now on full display.

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