US-Israel Relations Are Reaching A Dangerous Pass at Critical Time

Article Summary
Netanyahu may be right about the Iran threat, writes Ben-Dror Yemini, but he is wrong in his approach to Israel's relationship with the US. He has not only alienated the sitting president, he has presumed to publicly support his rival in the upcoming elections, a point being hammered home by the media in the US.

The articles in criticism of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published in the press in the past two days [Sept. 12-13] include embarrassing mistakes and biased commentary of the all-too-familiar kind. However, in this case — at least, this once — it isn't all that significant, and not what really matters. Since even if Netanyahu is right in his position in principle with respect to the Iranian nuclear program — and he is right — it seems at times that he is making every effort to deepen the rift between the United States and Israel. 

Israel has already had its crises with the American administration. There were quite a number of times when the US Congress had to be mobilized in support of Israel, in the face of the stance presented by the US Department of State and the White House. However, this time around, it is one of the most serious crises ever, if not the most severe crisis of all. And while the White House cannot possibly release official statements against Netanyahu, its agents in the media are doing the job on its behalf.

The editor of The New Yorker magazine, David Remnick, does not spare harsh words [in his blog published Sept. 12 under the heading, "Neocon Gambits"], slamming Netanyahu and, at the same time, lashing out against Mitt Romney, Netanyahu's favorite nominee in the approaching US presidential election. The criticism leveled against Netanyahu is not local or specific. Rather, Remnick charges that Netanyahu "eliminated any possible agreement with the Palestinians." This is, of course, a blatant lie; however, this lie is the ‘’bon ton’’ in the American elites these days and it is based on statements made, among others, by Prof. Avishai Margalit (Israeli-born professor at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton and one of the founders of the ‘’Peace Now’’ movement]. Get serious. For those who do not know what I am talking about, it's more or less like quoting world-renowned American linguist and liberal intellectual Prof. Noam Chomsky's expert opinion on former US President George Bush (whom Chomsky accused of war crimes). After all, the text is well known in advance.

Indeed, it's a bit strange that a serious journalist like Remnick relies on an authority like this (Prof. Avishai Margalit) to corroborate his criticism of Netanyahu. Anyway, Remnick has other sources to cite beyond the extremist far-left professor. Remnick states once and again what's already well known: Many of the Israeli defense establishment seniors are opposed to an Israeli attack on Iran at this point in time, (and all the more so) in the absence of coordination with the Americans. It thus is not Iran that is under dispute here, nor is it the American aid to Israel that is a source of disagreement. Indeed, it's under the Barack Obama administration that the American aid to Israel has reached new records. Nevertheless, the impression received from Netanyahu's declarations and actions is that Obama is virtually an enemy of the Jewish State. Remnick blasts Netanyahu, and rightly so, for his interference in the election process in the United States, along with his patron Sheldon Adelson, which is intolerable in the eyes of most Americans.

The New York Times columnist Bill Keller recently made it clear [in an op-ed published Sept. 9 under the heading "Nuclear Mullahs" and in a follow-up post published Sept. 11 under the heading, "Nuclear Mullahs, Continued"] that he was against an attack on Iran in any case, under any circumstances. It is thus quite easy to dismiss any position that he voices on the issue. However, Keller is a former editor of The New York Times. In an article published by him (last) week [Sept. 12, under the heading, "Mitt and Bibi: Diplomacy as Demolition Derby"), he mounts yet another attack, a personal one, on Netanyahu, raising the same arguments made by Remnick — against Netanyahu's involvement in the US presidential election, among other issues. It may be reasoned that Remnick and Keller, both of them Jews [sic], reflect the views of the liberal (American) Jewish elite alone. In terms of American politics, their views are representative of those of the voters of the (Israeli left-wing, social democratic) Meretz party. However, Keller cites a new survey [by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, released on Sept. 10], according to which 70% of Americans oppose a [unilateral] US military strike, while 59% say that the US should not come to Israel’s aid if it bombs Iran. They don't want another American involvement in any war whatsoever. It would be an illusion to expect Mitt Romney to follow a different path. Be that as it may, Obama is by no means a liberal detached from reality. Thus, if the findings of the survey cited by Keller are of any significance, then both Keller and Remnick are giving voice to the position prevalent among Americans.

The relations between Israel and the United States and Netanyahu and Obama have already been through some ups and downs — mostly downs. However, this time around, even though Netanyahu is right and while it would be advisable and it's actually essential to take the Iranian threat most seriously, it seems that Netanyahu is making every possible mistake. He has positioned himself as Obama's rival. He is perceived as an ardent supporter of Mitt Romney. He is waging the campaign in the open, and rather than securing understanding and coordination, he brings about alienation and hostility. Remnick and Keller communicate precisely what the White House thinks about Netanyahu. The problem is that this is bad news not only for Netanyahu. These are evil tidings for the State of Israel itself.

Found in: sheldon adelson, romney, obama, benjamin netanyahu

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