Obama Won, So Did Netanyahu

by James J. Zogby

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

For the past several weeks, considerable attention was paid to the number of Democratic senators announcing their support for the Iran deal. The number needed to insure that the deal would go through was 34.

As the total came closer to the magic 34, media in the US and Israel were rife with analysis and commentary about what all this meant for Israel. Since the Israeli Prime Minister had invested so much personal capital in his effort to block the deal, and his US lobbying arm, AIPAC, had, likewise, made its defeat their number one priority, one could hardly blame liberal Jews for wanting to celebrate AIPAC's defeat or for some Israeli's to lament what they called "Netanyahu's strategic blunder".

Both views, however, are naïve and shortsighted. On several levels, Netanyahu won. Let me explain.

In the first place, since the mid-1990's Netanyahu and AIPAC have sought to divert US focus from the Israeli-Palestinian "peace process" to Iran. They succeeded. Two decades later, with Israel having moved to the far right and the Palestinians in near total disarray, there is no longer any serious discussion of Israeli-Palestinian peace.

I would like to see President Obama pivot from his Iran deal "victory" to an international effort to end the occupation and secure Palestinian rights—but I'm not holding my breath. Having pushed senators to buck AIPAC on the deal, I suppose that the White House will hesitate before challenging Israel one more time.

Next, by throwing what amounted to a political and diplomatic tantrum, the Israeli side succeeded in making itself the center of attention for the Administration and Congress. In the last few months, there were more meetings held, more hours spent, and more effort expended on reassuring Israel and its supporters of America's "unbreakable, unshakable" commitment, than in any period in our history. Not a week went by without reports of the President, Vice-President, or Secretary of State holding hours of meetings with supporters of Israel attempting to explain the deal and reaffirm their commitment.

I've often described Netanyahu's bad behavior to that of a spoiled child who knows that when he misbehaves not only will there be no punishment, instead the over-indulgent parent will offer more love. The net effect has been the recognition that bad behavior not only makes you the center of attention, it also has the potential of reaping rewards.

And speaking of rewards, the Administration is now offering Israel an enhanced security package totally $1.8 billion (Note: the Arabs will pay for their compensatory package, Israel will not). This new aid will be in addition to increases in US arms assistance and other add-ons, like Iron Dome, that Congress annually appropriates for Israel.

Senators and members of Congress will also now be inclined to make clear their support for Israel. Many Democrats who announced their intention to support the president made sure that their statements declared undying support for Israel. The myth that "AIPAC will beat you if you don't toe the line" continues to hold strong, and so it can be expected that many members, despite their resentment of AIPAC and Netanyahu's pressure, will spend excessive time and energy between now and next November playing "make up" by proving their support for Israel.

One area where those who lament Netanyahu's miscalculations may have a point is their concern that he has made support for Israel a partisan issue dividing Democrats and Republicans. But this is only partially true. For the reasons outlined above, little will change in the short term. Israel will continue to get massive amounts of US assistance, with bipartisan support. There will be little or no real pressure from leaders in either party on Israel to end its occupation and denial of freedom for the Palestinian people. And while Republican presidential candidates will denounce President Obama for "turning his back on Israel", one shouldn't expect full-throated defense of the president from any of the Democratic contenders.

Nevertheless, a partisan split has developed on matters involving Israel. It predates Netanyahu, although his continued insults of the president and his noticeably Republican bias have greatly exacerbated this division. While not yet a Washington issue, polling shows that rank and file Democrats and progressives are fed up with the Israeli leader and his policies, and they want a more independent American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The emergence and rapid growth of liberal pro-Israel Jewish groups like J Street and Americans for Peace Now, or non-Zionist Jewish groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, or the expansion of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement on college campuses are all evidence of this shift. Also noteworthy was the immediate response of the progressive group Move On to support the president and oppose Chuck Schumer after the New York Senator announced his opposition to the Iran deal.

And so put away the handkerchiefs or the celebratory banners, the net impact of Netanyahu's challenge will be a short-term gain for Israel. They and their supporters were the center of attention and the focus of lawmakers. In that regard, little has changed. But change is coming and dissent is fermenting. It just won't happen as quickly as is needed to put US policy on a corrected course toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Browse articles by author

More Current Affairs

Added 19.06.2018
 

I find it exceptionally irritating when I hear liberals worry about whether Israel will be able to remain a "Jewish and Democratic State" if it retains control of occupied Palestinian lands.

Added 18.06.2018
Daniel Wagner: "My prediction Korean War will be formally ended, the peninsula will be denuclearised, and a lasting peace will be the result."
Added 14.06.2018
Extract: PiS [ the ruling Law and Justice party] has established the most significant addition to the Polish social safety net since 1989: the Family 500+ program. Launched in 2016, Family 500+ embodies the nationalism, traditional family values, and social consciousness that the PiS seeks to promote. The program pays families 500 złoty ($144) per month to provide care for a second or subsequent child...........The program has been enormously popular. Some 2.4 million families took advantage of it in the first two years. The benefit, equivalent to 40% of the minimum wage, has almost wiped out extreme poverty for children in Poland, reducing it by an estimated 70-80%........... Liberal pro-European politicians and policymakers are not convinced. They complain that such a generous family benefit will weaken work incentives and blow up the government budget. But initial evidence suggests that Family 500+ has actually increased economic activity. It has also reversed the post-communist decline in fertility, increased wages (particularly for women), and enabled families to buy school materials, take vacations, buy more clothes for their kids, and rely less on high-priced credit for basic household needs. And, thanks to rapid economic growth, the government deficit has steadily fallen, not grown.
Added 12.06.2018
The depths of hypocrisy of the Republican Party in supporting Trump’s meeting with the North Korean dictator in Singapore are hard to plumb. This is a party whose leading members adopted the Ostrich Foreign Policy Principle for decades. If you don’t like a country’s government or political and economic system, pretend it does not exist.
Added 12.06.2018
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has spoken out against China’s strategy of “intimidation and coercion” in the South China Sea, including the deployment of anti-ship missiles, surface-to-air missiles, and electronic jammers, and, more recently, the landing of nuclear-capable bomber aircraft at Woody Island. There are, Mattis warned, “consequences to China ignoring the international community.” But what consequences?
Added 12.06.2018
With a general election approaching in September, Swedish voters are being warned that now it’s their turn to be targeted by Russian interference in the democratic process. According to Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB), which is leading the country’s efforts to counter foreign-influence operations, such interference is very likely, and citizens should be on the lookout for disinformation and fake news.
Added 11.06.2018
Extract: "While the presidency has grown stronger over the years, during the Trump administration Congress has been timid and subordinate. That is because the leaders of the Republican Party – which controls both the House of Representatives and the Senate – are frightened of Trump’s base. They cannot afford to alienate the roughly 30-35% of Americans who passionately back him, ignore his personal transgressions, tolerate his degradation of the country’s civil discourse, favor his brutal treatment of immigrant families, and don’t mind that he is leaving the US almost friendless in the world."
Added 08.06.2018
Has North Korea’s ruler, Kim Jong-un, made a strategic decision to trade away his nuclear program, or is he just engaged in another round of deceptive diplomacy, pretending that he will denuclearize in exchange for material benefits for his impoverished country? This is, perhaps, the key question in the run-up to the summit between Kim and US President Donald Trump in Singapore on June 12. Until then, no one will know the answer, perhaps not even Kim himself.
Added 07.06.2018
Some analysts even project that, before long, Facebook will hold more data on its users than any government. Meanwhile, it makes a lot of money from this data. Its advertising revenues came up to around US$40 billion in 2017 (up 50% from 2016). With Google, it holds an 84% market share in online advertising.
Added 05.06.2018
Roseanne Barr is an American comedian whose fictional TV character of the same name is a working-class Trump supporter. For those who remember the show “All in the Family,” she might be usefully compared to Archie Bunker, the crude proletarian patriarch from Queens, New York. Barr’s show was swiftly canceled late last month by the television network ABC, not for anything her “character” said in her show, but for a tweet in which she described Valerie Jarrett, an African-American former adviser to Barack Obama, as the offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood and “Planet of the Apes.”
Added 04.06.2018
 

When Donald Trump was elected, I, like many others feared what his presidency might do to the country. A year and a half into his term in office, our concerns have been justified. 

Added 01.06.2018
Extract from the article: "While the West’s relative decline is almost inevitable, its economic dysfunction is not. Yet pessimism can be self-fulfilling. Why undertake difficult reforms if a dark future seems preordained? As a result, accepting and anxious pessimists tend to elect governments that duck difficult decisions (witness Germany’s grand coalition), while angry pessimists make matters worse (by voting for Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda or for Brexit, for example). It doesn’t have to be this way. As French President Emmanuel Macron has demonstrated, bold leaders can succeed with a message of hope, openness, and inclusion, and by promoting a vision of progress based on credible reforms."
Added 30.05.2018
It has been nearly two years since the United Kingdom narrowly voted in favor of leaving the European Union. As the march toward Brexit – formally set for the end of next March – proceeds, fundamental questions about the nature of the future UK-EU relationship remain unanswered. Instead, every time a tough decision must be made in the negotiations in Brussels, British ministers kick the can down the road, or even into the long grass. This is somewhat surprising. Apparently, none of the politicians and newspaper editors who plotted for years to get the UK out of the EU thought much about what would happen if their machinations succeeded.
Added 30.05.2018
Discussions are now underway to establish a system of joint deposit insurance for eurozone banks. Proponents of the scheme, with the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB) taking the lead, point out that deposit insurance would avert the danger of a run on banks in times of crisis. While this argument is true, critics emphasize the disparity in risks, owing to the high share of bad loans on the balance sheets of banks in some countries. To address this risk disparity and move ahead with the plan, balance sheets will need to be cleaned up before considering the next step. While the share of bad loans for banks in the stable eurozone countries is just 2%, the most recently published International Monetary Fund statistics, from last April, show a share of 11% for Ireland, 16% for Italy, 40% for Cyprus, and 46% for Greece.
Added 29.05.2018
Trump’s decision cannot be justified by any breach of the agreement on Iran’s part. It is, rather, a return to the old, largely unsuccessful US policy of confrontation with Iran. The only difference this time is that the Trump administration seems determined to go to the brink of war – or even beyond – to get its way. If the administration has any plans for keeping Iran’s nuclear program in check in the absence of the nuclear deal, then it is keeping them a secret. Judging by some of the administration’s rhetoric, it would appear that airstrikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities are on the table. But bombing would only delay Iran’s nuclear program, not stop it. Would Trump then consider a massive ground war to occupy the country and topple the regime? We know all too well how that strategy worked the last time it was tried.
Added 28.05.2018
US President Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to cancel his planned June 12 summit with Kim Jong-un represents a diplomatic coup for the North Korean leader, and an even bigger victory for China. In the space of just a few months, Kim’s image has gone from that of international pariah to that of thwarted peacemaker.
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.