Obama v. Netanyahu Round Two
by Stephen Lendman
They’ve gone at each other before. Neither one likes the other.
A previous article said Netanyahu repeatedly puts both feet in his mouth and risks swallowing them.
He’s arrogant, abrasive, offensive, duplicitous, thuggish, and dangerous. He’s an embarrassment to legitimate governance. It’s hard imagining why Israelis put up with him.
Former and current cabinet and military officials deplore him. He’s wildly irresponsible. Rational thinking isn’t his long suit.
Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said Israel faces no existential threat. He criticized inflammatory warmongering. He urged changing Israeli’s electoral system.
“(W)e need a prime minister,” he said,” who will not be subject to political pressures when deciding on such issues as an attack on Iran or a peace agreement.”
“The State of Israel is at a critical point in time of great challenges both foreign and domestic. Minority groups are controlling the state and the majority is not being heard.”
Former Military Intelligence head Major General (ret.) Uri Saguy believes Netanyahu’s heading Israel over a cliff. He’s outraged over his dangerous warmongering.
He called it “orchestrated and purposely timed hysteria that puts the country into a state of anxiety, artificial or not.”
He can’t be trusted. Others in Israel feel the same way.
He’s obsessed about a nonexistent Iranian existential threat. He’s willing to embroil the entire region in conflict challenging it. He’d risk destroying Israel if he tried.
He’s gone out of his way to alienate support from Washington. No wonder Obama deplores having to deal with him. As long as he remains prime minister, relations with America won’t be easy.
He believes what he wants matters most. He’s done his best to destroy what remains of America’s special relationship with Israel.
It’s a marriage of convenience. Each side serves its own interests. Netanyahu doesn’t make it easy. He’s his own worst enemy. He wants a firm commitment and timeline on Iran.
He won’t take no for an answer. He’s overbearing, demanding and offensive. He alienates those around him.
On January 15, Haaretz headlined “Obama: Netanyahu doesn’t understand Israel’s best interests, driving it into international isolation.”
Bloomberg published Jeffrey Goldberg’s comments. It features business news. Other topics usually aren’t addressed.
Perhaps Bloomberg thought US/Israeli relations matter days before Israelis decide whether to retain Netanyahu as prime minister. Polls suggest they will.
Haaretz said Goldberg is close to Obama administration officials. He’s a conduit. He delivers messages to Netanyahu and other Israeli officials. Often it’s on Palestinian and Iranian issues.
Goldberg “described the White House’s lack of trust in and frustration with Netanyahu.”
When Obama learned about his E1 Ma’aleh Adumim development plan, he “didn’t even bother getting angry.”
“He told several people that this sort of behavior on Netanyahu’s part is what he has come to expect, and he suggested that he has become inured to what he sees as self-defeating policies of his Israeli counterpart.”
After UN Member States upgraded Palestine from observer to non-member UN status, Netanyahu responded harshly. Obama said privately that “Israel does not know what its own best interests are.”
He believes that “if Israel, a small state in an inhospitable region, becomes more of a pariah – one that alienates even the affections of the US, its last steadfast friend – it won’t survive.”
“Iran poses a short-term threat to Israel’s survival. Israel’s own behavior poses a long-term one.”
Netanyahu is “a political coward, an essentially unchallenged leader who nevertheless is unwilling to lead or spend political capital to advance the cause of compromise.”
Obama expresses no optimism about restarting peace process talks. It was stillborn from inception.
Palestinians never had a legitimate partner. Netanyahu spurns peace. He prioritizes violence, land theft, and occupation harshness.
Frustration with Netanyahu changes nothing, said Goldberg. Billions of dollars in annual military and other aid will continue.
Washington remains Israel’s paymaster/partner. No other relationship caused so much regional grief and turmoil. Expect much more ahead.
On January 15, Haaretz headlined “Netanyahu associates brush off Obama criticism: PM won’t give in to international pressure.”
He’s unfit to serve. He’s a world class thug. He belongs in prison, not government. He tolerates no opposition.
Close associates say he’ll “continue to stand firm on Israel’s national interests and will not make any compromises that will harm the security of Israeli citizens.”
“He will not agree to a return to the 1967 borders and will make certain that Jerusalem remains united.”
Hatnuah leader Tzipi Livni criticized Netanyahu harshly. She called Obama’s remarks a wake-up call for Israelis.
“Anyone who hadn’t woken up yet, got up this morning to a very sharp and clear statement by the president of the United States, who has said some serious things about Israel’s prime minister,” she said.
“One can like or not like the president of the United States, but we’re talking about Israel’s greatest friend and Israel’s security, so these remarks should wake up every Israeli.”
“It saddens me that we’ve reached this situation, but they’re laying the truth out for us.”
“If there isn’t a dramatic change and people sitting on the fence don’t go out and vote, Israel will keep heading into isolation that will lead to violence.”
She urged restarting peace process talks. She suggests involving EU, Arab League, and Turkish leaders. Why now when she spurned earlier efforts?
Her own watch revealed disturbing policies she endorsed. As foreign minister, she matched Netanyahu’s extremism.
Ahmad Tibi is an Arab Israeli political leader. He’s a current Knesset member. He heads Ta’al (the Arab Movement for Renewal party).
He once called Livni “90% Lieberman and 10% Netanyahu.” Lieberman’s worse. He reflects ultranationalist extremism. He represents Israel’s lunatic fringe right wing.
Livni doesn’t give an inch on what Palestinians most want.
“Israel (is) the state of the Jewish people,” she stressed. She feels the same way now.
“I would like to emphasize the meaning of ‘its people’ is the Jewish people – with Jerusalem the united and undivided capital of Israel and of the Jewish people for 3,007 years.”
In other words, Palestinian rights don’t matter. Israeli Arabs aren’t wanted. Only Jews have rights. She supports enforcing Gaza’s siege.
She favors stealing Palestinian land for settlement construction. She wants Hamas toppled and destroyed.
She talks peace but deplores it. She headed earlier negotiations and spurned it. She’s for unchallenged Israeli regional dominance.
Her comments now ring hollow. She’s part of Israel’s extreme right-wing. Little remains of the moderate left. Polls suggest Israel’s most extremist government will worsen post-election.
On January 16, a Haaretz editorial headlined “Netanyahu: Listen to Obama’s warnings,” saying:
Israeli elections are scheduled a day after Obama is inaugurated. Netanyahu planned them that way. He could have served until fall this year.
He preferred an earlier mandate. His “goal was transparent.” He wants to prevent Obama’s Middle East agenda from clashing with his own.
Doing so might give Israeli voters pause. They might prefer anyone but him. In 1992, it happened. Yitzhak Shamir clashed with Bush I. Yitzhak Rabin defeated him.
So far, Netanyahu’s strategy worked. Obama prioritized domestic issues. He hasn’t yet begun a second term. Focusing more on Israel comes later.
Netanyahu wants four more years before he starts. “Anyone who hoped Obama would break his silence and reveal his views to the Israeli public has thus far been disappointed,” said Haaretz.
On January 15, things changed. Jeffrey Goldberg quoted him. Israeli media reported what he said.
It reflects views at odds with “Netanyahu’s campaign advertisements.” They “depict (him) as a statesman welcome overseas, and especially in Washington.”
Israelis have cause to reflect. Do Netanyahu and hard-right coalition partners deserve another four years? Will “confrontation with Obama and the rest of the world” follow?
Israeli elections are days away. Do voters have enough time to reconsider their option? Are they wise enough to shift course?
Recent history suggests otherwise. Netanyahu can rest easy. Barring the unexpected, he looks certain to remain prime minister. Israelis will have themselves to blame.
A Final Comment
Obama isn’t alone. Other Western leaders deplore Netanyahu. Bibi-ism isn’t popular outside Israel.
Former State Department spokesman PJ Crowley witnessed nine Obama/Netanyahu face-to-face meetings.
There’s “a lack of rapport between these two men,” he said. “They don’t like each other very much. Plus, there are serious differences between our interests and Israel’s.”
Netanyahu stresses “agenda-setting.” It’s “personal” with him. He thinks pressuring Obama works.
Former French president Nicolas Sarkozy was heard saying he “cannot bear” Netanyahu. He called him “a liar.”
Britain’s David Cameron, Germany’s Angela Merkel, and other European leaders have similar views.
Netanyahu expects little from them. Privately he calls them hypocritical and naive. Opponents aren’t tolerated. His agenda comes first.
Settlement construction is prioritized. Construction plans accelerated 300% in 2012. Nearly 6,700 residential units were approved.
They’ll be built on stolen Palestinian land. Over a third are inside the Green Line. Settler rights come first.
Palestinians act in their own defense. They defy occupation harshness. They erected a Bab Al Shams (“Gateway to the Sun”) village tent city. They did so on their own land. They have deeds to prove it.
Israeli forces attacked them. They forcibly removed them. Doing so violated a High Court temporary injunction. It prohibited evacuation.
Israel declared private Palestinian land a closed military zone. Owners vowed to return. Israeli police blocked them. They used tear gas, rubber bullets and stun grenades.
Resisters were beaten. Injuries were reported. Ambulances were blocked from helping them. Arrests were made. Journalists were targeted.
Israel claimed senior PA officials were involved in establishing the Bab Al Shams village. During a High Court hearing, state’s attorney Hani Ofek lied.
She said they acted to create a public disturbance. “This wasn’t happenstance or some tourist venture,” he added.
“Foreign elements” were involved, she claimed. They’re “trying to take advantage of international sensitivity regarding the site.” They’re trying “to do public damage to Israel.”
Netanyahu and likeminded hardliners do more on their own than anyone can do it for them.
On January 15, “dozens of (Palestinians, supporters, and journalists) arrived and tried to enter the site, despite a sign declaring it a closed military zone,” said Ofek.
Confrontations followed. In the “public interest,” the camp was evacuated. Whose “public interest” wasn’t explained.
Palestinians petitioned Israel’s High Court for redress. It’s their land. It belongs only to them. They’re entitled to be there. Israel has no right to evict them.
Building on private Palestinian land is lawless. Settlements infest the West Bank and East Jerusalem on it.
Palestinians asked High Court judges to rule in their favor. They haven’t yet done so.
Dov Kenin is a Jewish/Arab Hadash Party MK. It’s unique in Israel.
Kenin calls Netanyahu’s government “dangerous.” He’s committed to do whatever it takes to replace it. He and other Hadash members support “individual freedom.”
“Socialism (is) more democratic than any of the other alternatives,” he believes.
In the 1980s, Hadash supported “two states for two peoples.” He believes it’s still possible. He’s out of touch with reality. One state for all its people is the only viable option.
“A peace agreement is only possible if it is fair to both peoples,” he stresses.
He supports Palestinian self-determination. He opposes “national discrimination.” He’s against an “ethnically pure” Israel.
“Our enemy is on the right, Netanyahu,” he stresses. “We are a peace movement that opposes devastating wars as they erupt.”
He holds Netanyahu responsible for violence on his watch. He deplores having him around in charge for another four years.
He believes a “Jewish/Arab partnership” is Israel’s best choice. Hadash will have little say post-elections.
Polls suggest it will win four of 120 Knesset seats. Expect the worst of hardline rule stay empowered. Israelis will have themselves to blame.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book is titled “Banker Occupation: Waging Financial War on Humanity.”
Visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.