Netanyahu’s Arrogance; Our Stupidity

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute


"When I entered the Prime Minister's office for my second term, I was summoned to Washington. 'Not one brick', they told me...The pressure from the international community and the Americans was enormous...And still, after five years on the job, we built a little more than 'one brick'...the important thing is to do it in a smart way...to stand up to international pressure by maneuvering...we continue to head straight toward our goal, even if one time we walk right and another time we walk left."

             Benjamin Netanyahu, 2014

 

"I know what America is. America is a thing that can be easily moved in the right direction. They will not bother us. Let's suppose they will say something...so they say it?...We have such support there!".    

              Benjamin Netanyahu, 2001

 

For over two decades, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been playing us for fools—a role we have filled to the detriment of our national honor and the cause of peace.

His entire political career has been focused on demonstrating to Israelis that he could "move [America] very easily"—and, on too many occasions, he has done just that. Since his first election as Prime Minister in 1996, he has been proud of his ability to get away with defying American presidents, while paying no price for his defiance.

His successes, in large measure, have been due the ties he has built with Republicans in Congress, using them to counter peace-making efforts led by two Democratic presidents, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

After the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, Netanyahu went into action. Together with a small group of Likudniks, he launched a lobbying campaign against Oslo. Weekly faxes were sent to Congressional offices warning of the dangers that peace with the Palestinians posed for Israel and providing talking points that some Members of Congress followed. It was unprecedented—an Israeli opposition party acting against their government lobbying the US Congress to turn against the policy of our government. The effort won allies among Republicans in Congress who were only too happy to place obstacles in Bill Clinton's way. When the GOP won control of Congress in 1994 and Netanyahu won the Israeli elections in 1996, he was in a perfect position to accomplish his goal of ending the Oslo Accords.

The Gingrich-controlled Congress invited Netanyahu to speak to a Joint Session. He used the opportunity to attack the peace process and to call on Congress to join him on a war footing against Iraq and Iran. Throughout the rest of his first term, Netanyahu defied pressure from the Administration to curtail settlement construction and to make a serious commitment to peace. He knew that Congress would "have his back".

Even when President Clinton did force the Israelis to negotiate with the Palestinians, Netanyahu never fully implemented the agreement they concluded. And when Clinton vigorously objected to Netanyahu's plans to construct a new colony between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Netanyahu defiantly broke ground erecting Har Homa—a settlement that now houses almost 20,000 Israelis. 

President Obama's aspirations to negotiate an Israeli-Palestinian peace, were also frustrated by Netanyahu, whose second election as Israeli Prime Minister coincided with Obama's entry to the White House. After two frustrating years, Obama put the process on hold.  

In 2010, Republicans again won control of Congress and their new leadership once again invited Netanyahu to speak to a Joint Session of Congress. The Israeli used this appearance to rebuke Obama's call for an Israeli-Palestinian peace based on "the 1967 borders, with mutually agreed land swaps". In the face of Israeli intransigence and Congressional pressure, once again the Administration shelved peace-making, until after the 2012 elections. 

Secretary of State John Kerry's ill-fated effort to restart Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were eclipsed by the disastrous and deadly Syrian conflict and the effort to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran—a deal which Netanyahu was determined to stymie. And so, when the Republican-led Congress invited Netanyahu to deliver his third address to a Joint Session, he used this appearance to call on Congress to block the Administration's support for the P5+1 deal with Iran.  

Netanyahu's Washington performances have been focused on two audiences. He sought to muster the support of his Republican allies to defeat the work of Democratic Presidents, while at the same time seeking to demonstrate to his Israeli supporters how "very easily" he could "move America in the right direction". 

While his first two efforts were a success, he failed with the third. Not only was he unable to block the Iran deal, but his gambit exposed a partisan divide over support for his policies, leaving Israelis uncomfortable about Netanyahu's ability to manage their relationship with the United States. 

When he comes to Washington next week, Netanyahu is a man on a mission. His mission? To make it clear to Israelis that he is still the "master" of America. Unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans, alike, will serve as his enablers.

Netanyahu will meet with the President. This time there will be no real pressure to stop settlements and make peace. Instead, we are told that Israel is in line to receive a dramatic increase in US aid—possibly as high as $4.5 Billion a year. Netanyahu will then be honored at an event hosted by the neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute. And in order to reassure to Israelis that the "master" can still dominate US politics, the Prime Minister wrangled a speaking engagement at the liberal Center for American Progress and secured a glowing op-ed written by Hillary Clinton who pledged that, if elected president, she "would reaffirm [the] unbreakable bond with Israel—and Benjamin Netanyahu."

The entire exercise is shameful and distressing. Enabling Netanyahu's bad behavior only encourages more of the same. It's embarrassing and it's dumb. It's one thing to acknowledge that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process is dead, but it makes no sense to reward the guy who two decades ago pledged to kill peace, and then spared no effort to do just that.  

 

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 23.05.2018
The good news is that the United States and China appear to have backed away from the precipice of a trade war. While vague in detail, a May 19 agreement defuses tension and commits to further negotiation. The bad news is that the framework of negotiations is flawed: A deal with any one country will do little to resolve America’s fundamental economic imbalances that have arisen in an interconnected world.
Added 21.05.2018
The cryptocurrency revolution, which started with bitcoin in 2009, claims to be inventing new kinds of money. There are now nearly 2,000 cryptocurrencies, and millions of people worldwide are excited by them. What accounts for this enthusiasm, which so far remains undampened by warnings that the revolution is a sham? One must bear in mind that attempts to reinvent money have a long history. As the sociologist Viviana Zelizer points out in her book The Social Meaning of Money: “Despite the commonsense idea that ‘a dollar is a dollar is a dollar,’ everywhere we look people are constantly creating different kinds of money.” Many of these innovations generate real excitement, at least for a while. As the medium of exchange throughout the world, money, in its various embodiments, is rich in mystique. We tend to measure people’s value by it. It sums things up like nothing else. And yet it may consist of nothing more than pieces of paper that just go round and round in circles of spending. So its value depends on belief and trust in those pieces of paper. One might call it faith.
Added 19.05.2018
The protests that rippled across Russia ahead of Vladimir Putin’s fourth inauguration as president followed a familiar script. Police declared the gatherings illegal, and the media downplayed their size. Alexey Navalny, the main organizer and Russia’s de facto opposition leader, was arrested in dramatic fashion, dragged out of a rally in Moscow by police. On May 15, he was sentenced to 30 days in prison. More than 1,600 protesters across the country were beaten and detained.
Added 16.05.2018
Many knowledgeable people dismiss the prospect of advanced AGI [=Artificial General Intelligence]. Some, ..........,argue that it is impossible for AI to outsmart humanity........Yet other distinguished scholars........do worry that AGI could pose a serious or even existential threat to humanity. With experts lining up on both sides of the debate, the rest of us should keep an open mind.
Added 15.05.2018
The world’s most important bilateral relationship – between the United States and China – is also one of its most inscrutable. Bedeviled by paradoxes, misperceptions, and mistrust, it is a relationship that has become a source of considerable uncertainty and, potentially, severe instability. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the brewing bilateral trade war.
Added 15.05.2018
Viewed from Palestine, it’s hard to disagree that we’ve perhaps seen one of the most inflammatory weeks in recent memory. In just a few days, several extremely sensitive events have coincided to devastating effect: the culmination of weekly protests in the Gaza Strip, the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the 70th anniversary of the 1948 Nakba (from the Arabic, “Immense Catastrophe”) and the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Throw in for good measure Israel and Iran’s recent clash over the occupied Golan Heights and it seems that more than ever, the region is something of a tinderbox.
Added 14.05.2018
The irony, of course, is that this is exactly the type of “grand bargain” Iran proposed to the Bush administration in May 2003. Bush rejected the offer, vowing never to talk with a member of the “axis of evil.” As Vice President Dick Cheney put it in reference to North Korea – another member of that fanciful “axis” – Americans “don’t negotiate with evil; we defeat it.” But by trading diplomacy for saber-rattling, the Bush administration slammed the door on a solution with Iran. Today, as Trump embraces the same tactics, it’s hard to fathom how the outcome will be any different.
Added 12.05.2018
Quote: "If you take out a piece of paper and put 10 political issues that are important to you on one side and the words “Republican” or “Democrat” on the top, then categorize them, most of you are likely to find that you, too, are a hybrid of both. If my contention is correct, and enough voters get fed up enough with the political status quo in the mid-terms and the next presidential election to say that neither Party actually represents their belief system, we may just find that the 40% of American voters who are already Independent turns into 50% or 60% in the near term. I am willing to bet that in spite of all the hype about most Americans being firmly in one political camp or the other, that most Americans are actually middle ground voters who form part of the emerging hybrid political class. Whether they choose to remain affiliated with either the Democrat or Republican Parties in the future remains to be seen. Stay tuned".
Added 10.05.2018
Quote: "China, clearly, is emerging as a world power, even more quickly than it otherwise would, to the extent that the US is coming to be seen as an unreliable partner concerned only with advancing its own interests – at the expense, if necessary, of other countries. But the belief that China will continue growing at mid-single-digit rates for an extended period violates the first rule of forecasting: don’t extrapolate the present into the future. At some point, China will hit bumps in the road, and there is no guarantee that its leaders will admit their failures and adjust policy accordingly."
Added 08.05.2018
The decertification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) by Trump is most unfortunate. It seems that Trump was not swayed by either France’s President Macron or Germany’s Chancellor Merkel to preserve the deal. Instead, he appears to have taken Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s advice to decertify the deal, even though Iran continues to fully adhere to all of its provisions. It is dangerous that neither Trump nor Netanyahu appears to fully grasp the dire regional and international implications of the unilateral decertification of the deal by the US.
Added 04.05.2018
Quote fromthe article: "Iran has been instrumental in the survival of the Assad regime since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011. Since then, Israel has used its air power to disrupt weapons supplies to Hezbollah and maintain a buffer zone in the southwest, near the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. But now it seems things are heating up. Is this now a far bigger, more direct confrontation in the Syrian arena?"
Added 03.05.2018
As signs of an incipient slowdown in the European economy begin to multiply – coincident indicators suggest that industrial production has slowed sharply in 2018 – the case for agreeing on a Brexit deal and refocusing attention on capital markets union is becoming more powerful and more urgent. The commissioner now responsible, Valdis Dombrovskis, said in London in late April that the “building blocks” will be in place early next year, to “help our companies to better cope with the departure of Europe’s largest financial center from the single market.” That is a laudable goal, but it could well be too little, too late.
Added 03.05.2018
Gaza has often been invaded for its water. Every army leaving or entering the Sinai desert, whether Babylonians, Alexander the Great, the Ottomans, or the British, has sought relief there. But today the water of Gaza highlights a toxic situation that is spiralling out of control. A combination of repeated Israeli attacks and the sealing of its borders by Israel and Egypt, have left the territory unable to process its water or waste. Every drop of water swallowed in Gaza, like every toilet flushed or antibiotic imbibed, returns to the environment in a degraded state.
Added 24.04.2018
Renewable electricity costs have fallen faster than all but the most extreme optimists believed possible only a few years ago. In favorable sunny locations, such as northern Chile, electricity auctions are being won by solar power at prices that have plummeted 90% in ten years. Even in less sunny Germany, reductions of 80% have been achieved. Wind costs have fallen some 70%, and battery costs around 80%, since 2010.........[The] estimate that the cost of going green will be very small has proved too pessimistic – the cost will actually be negative.
Added 23.04.2018
Electric Vessels, EVs don’t rise or fall on Tesla — Nissan and the Chinese brands are arguably way ahead, and the Chevy Bolt is comparable to the Tesla 3. But it is unarguable that a price spike in petroleum would certainly help the company get past its current Tesla 3 production problems by substantially bolstering investor and consumer confidence.
Added 20.04.2018
 

As the US, Russia and China test each other’s patience and strategic focus, speculation about the chances of a world war has hit a new high.

Added 18.04.2018

HONG KONG – At the beginning of this century, when China launched its “going out” policy – focused on using foreign-exchange reserves to support overseas expansion and acquisitions by Chinese companies – few expected the country quickly to emerge as a leading economic player in Latin America.

Added 18.04.2018

BEIJING – Last month, US President Donald Trump enacted steel and aluminum tariffs aimed squarely at China. On April 2, China retaliated with tariffs on 128 American products. Trump then announced 25% tariffs on another 1,300 Chinese products, representing some $50 billion of exports.

Added 17.04.2018

WASHINGTON, DC – Last week was a most unusual one for President Donald Trump’s administration.

Added 16.04.2018

All the attention being given to Facebook and Cambridge Analytica regarding their breach of public trust and exploitation of personal data is richly deserved.