Week 7: Should Bibi go?
We heard what IMHO is a brilliant idea. PM Netanyahu should publicly invite Isaac ‘Buji’ Herzog, the man he and the Americans consider to be his major contender for his position, to Washington when he makes his speech before Congress. Perhaps Zippi Livni could tag along to explain why Netanyahu is so wrong now, but not two months earlier when she was a minister in his cabinet?
Brilliant because in one step he demolishes the idea promoted both by the President and the oddly named Zionist Movement that his proposed trip was electioneering†. Did they think he would appeal for votes? Newsflash #1: no one in the chamber has a vote in the Israeli elections. Newsflash #2: Israel overwhelmingly agrees with Netanyahu that preventing Iran gaining nukes is a survival priority ‒ even Herzog.
Brilliant because it makes the threat by some Democrats to be elsewhere seem like petulant Netanyahuphobia and to some extent cowardice. Why cowardice‡? VP Biden doesn’t say that he is boycotting but simply will find a pressing engagement so far out of DC he couldn’t come back. Ditto Pelosi.
There are arguments for and against going through with the speech and powerful supporters on both sides. Rudolf Giuliani, John McCain, John Bolton, Eli Wiesel and, of course, John Boehrner want him to proceed. Former Israeli ambassadors to the US, Danny Ayalon (a man who BTW I have huge respect for) want him to stop or, at least, postpone.
I expect Netanyahu to be the next Prime Minister but if I am wrong and let’s face it I can’t predict the Israeli electorate would Herzog go to America to make the same speech?
It all boils down to one question. Is the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons so urgent that it is worth alienating the Obama for the next two years of his term and the Democrats, for longer?
Some would say that Obama’s personal dislike (contempt?) for the Israeli PM is so deep that nothing makes a difference. If so, it is a sad time for the United States when foreign policy is determined by personalities not interests. Some would say that Obama is so blind to the reality of the Iranian threat ‒ he has even said that Iran won’t go nuclear because it is against Islam, something that didn’t worry Pakistan ‒ that nothing will persuade him to change course. Congress is the only option even if it means defying him.
Others would say that the capacity of a vengeful President to do real damage is a more present danger than the Iranians. Or that coming to against his wishes America destroys two of Israel’s greatest assets bipartisan support in Congress and instinctive Jewish support for Israel despite most Jews being voting Democrat, no matter what. I’ll be blogging about that soon.
So, vote please. Should Netanyahu address Congress or should he back-off?
† An oft made mistake of overseas analysts and journalists and promoted by some Israeli politicians is to claim that the election is a) about who will be Prime Minister and/or b) about the current status quo with the Palestinians. Israel has a multi-party democracy, every Knesset from the first has been a coalition and for many the ultimate government to be formed is very much a secondary issue. For the Arabs, the religious parties and the ethnic parties it is irrelevant.
Israel overwhelmingly and quite rationally does not trust Mahmud Abbas and his government. With him doing so well outside the negotiation framework (I have long not called it the Peace Process) no one expects any conclusion even if he makes a performance of returning to the table. Apart from some minor sloganeering, if anything, the upcoming election is about economics not the Palestinians.
‡ As we learnt from Jeff Goldberg the administration considers Netanyahu chickensh*t for both NOT bombing Iran and NOT defying the administration’s pressure against bombing.
How much more chickensh*t if he is intimidated into NOT addressing the Congress and NOT defying Obama and coming anyway?
- Democrats Hope to Limit Fallout From Netanyahu’s Speech, The Associated Press, Newsmax.com, 7 February 2015
- As I See It: The Obama doctrine says ‘Israel’s enemy is my friend’, Melanie Phillips, Jerusalem Post, 6 February 2015
- Free Beacon Continues To Expose More State Department Efforts To Interfere In Israeli Elections, Mirabelle, Israellycool, 10 February 2015