Once again the children are racing around the media playground in a frantic attempt to dissuade Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from addressing Congress in March. The last such brouhaha occurred in October when journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported that a “senior White House official” (probably President Obama) labeled the Israeli leader “chicken shit.” This time around, however, rascals in Israel and the United States have united to lacerate the Israeli leader they love to hate, even when his only transgression is to accept a speaking invitation from House Speaker John Boehner. Didn’t Bibi learn in second grade that you don’t diss the principal?
Responding with appropriate grade-school petulance to Netanyahu’s refusal to rescind his acceptance, the American president and his Secretary of State stamped their feet and announced their refusal to meet with him during his forthcoming Washington visit. Perhaps they need more uninterrupted time to work out the cozy deal in process with Iran that will lift sanctions and turn the other cheek to its accelerated nuclear weapons development. How dare the prime minister of the only democratic (and, by the way, Jewish) state in the new Middle East that President Obama proudly proclaimed in Cairo nearly six years ago – now comprising Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Yemen, along with ISIS, ISIl, al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, among other exemplary Islamist (oops) terrorist groups – complain about a nuclear Iran?
It is indeed a strange alliance of political urchins who pelted the Israeli Prime minister with verbal insults. Leading the pack was Martin Indyk, former U.S. ambassador to Israel and special envoy for the failed Israel-Palestinian negotiations, who accused Netanyahu of “using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign.” It was Indyk who repeatedly maneuvered behind the scenes to sabotage right-wing Israeli prime ministers for elevating the best interests of their besieged country over his “peace now” fantasies. Indyk even managed to persuade two gullible Fox News anchors to wave the American flag in Netanyahu’s face.
Last week Chris Wallace and Shepard Smith built their own sand castle on Indyk’s allegation that Netanyahu was “using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign and the Republicans are using [him] for their campaign against Obama.” Wallace, agreeing that Boehner’s invitation was “wicked,” claimed to be “shocked” (as Captain Renault memorably responded in Casablanca). Smith concurred: “It seems like [Israelis] think we don’t pay attention and that we’re just a bunch of complete morons.” Channel 2 dutifully reported the words of an unnamed senior American official who announced that “It will be difficult to trust Netanyahu in the future” – as if the Obama administration had ever trusted him in the past.
Similarly unnamed American officials found a welcome forum for complaints in – no surprise – Ha’aretz. Natanyahu, they griped to the Israeli daily repository of left-wing wisdom, had “spat” in Obama’s face by accepting Speaker Boehner’s invitation without submitting it for White House approval. And Secretary of State Kerry was “insulted.” “That’s no way to behave,” declared American monitors of classroom decorum. The idea that the Prime Minister of a sovereign nation might not raise his hand to request permission to speak seemed both incomprehensible and reprehensible. But what about an American president who wouldn’t journey to Paris on merely three days notice to join a public demonstration by world leaders against Islamic terrorism (words that he cannot bring himself to utter), but managed to abort a visit to India to fly to Saudi Arabia on one day’s notice to express his condolences to the King’s mourning entourage.
To be sure, politics make strange bedfellows. Criticism of Netanyahu’s planned speech from Indyk, Ha’aretz and The New York Times was bolstered by Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the United States under Netanyahu. Oren, now with political ambitions of his own in a rival party, described it as “a cynical political move.” He suggested that Netanyahu cancel his speech to avoid “a rift with the American government.” More predictably, Israeli politicians Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid, recently dismissed from Netanyahu’s Cabinet, complained about the damage that Netanyahu was inflicting on relations with the United States, to say nothing of their own political opportunities.
In President Obama’s outreach speech in Cairo he attributed Jewish statehood to the Holocaust, not to millennia of yearning and decades of effort by Jews to return to their ancient homeland. From Cairo, revealingly, he avoided a stopover in Israel on his way to Germany. His message of indifference, evolving into hostility, to the Jewish state has not moderated. Nor has Prime Minister Netanyahu’s determination to protect Israel abated. Responding bluntly to his critics, he recently informed Cabinet ministers: “As prime minister of Israel, I am obliged to make every effort to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons which it will aim at the State of Israel. I go wherever I am invited to make Israel’s position heard and to protect its future and its existence.” The constitutional lawyer in the White House surely understands res ipsa loquitur.
Reprinted with author’s permission from the Algemeiner