In the Arena

Enter Bibi

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Baz Ratner / Reuters

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem September 2, 2012.

It may be, as Jeff Goldberg asserts, that Bibi Netanyahu is just frustrated over President Obama’s refusal to approve an Israeli attack on Iran. Or it may be something else: an unprecedented attempt by a putative American ally to influence a U.S. presidential campaign. Either way, Netanyahu’s recent behavior is outrageous. He is trying push us into a war that is not in our national interest, a war that would only further destabilize a region that is already teetering near chaos. He is trying to get us to damage our relations with the rest of the world–especially the Russians and Chinese, whom we spent great diplomatic effort luring into the Iranian economic sanctions–so that he can pursue a strategy that even the Israeli military and intelligence communities find questionable. President Obama will not yield to this pressure, nor should he–and every American should know the implications of what Netanyahu and his American neoconservative allies, including Mitt Romney, are proposing.

Iran is not Afghanistan or Libya. It is not a bunch of tents in the desert. It is also not Iraq or Pakistan, clumsy collections of tribes and ethnicities cobbled together by Europeans a century ago. It is an actual place, a real country with real borders. It has the best-educated population in the region, outside of Israel; and that population is extremely proud of the country’s heritage while also being generally pro-American (especially American culture, which is received on the satellite dishes that mushroom every rooftop). It is a complicated culture, ironic and poetic and deeply paranoid, especially about the machinations of former colonial powers. It represents, I believe, the greatest mismatch between a people and a government of any country in the world.

The Iranian government is dreadful and brutal, but not crazy. The Supreme Leader is not Saddam Hussein. The Iranians have much to lose if they ever chose to attack Israel or–anyplace, for that matter. They took 1 million casualties in Ayatullah Khomeini’s foolish war with Iraq in the 1980s; 100,000 were chemical victims of Saddam’s poison gas (which most Iranians believe that US provided). Missiles rained on Tehran; it was a terrifying experience for that middle class city. I was present at Tehran University in December 2011 when Ayatullah Rafsanjani made the only direct mention of the need for an Iranian nuclear weapon. He said an “Islamic bomb” was necessary to deter the Israeli nuclear threat. I believe that if the Iranians are foolish enough to “break out” and assemble a weapon, deterrence will be its only purpose. And if Iran gets the bomb, a U.S. policy of containment and deterrence will be as successful as it was against the Soviet Union, whose leaders once went around saying as crazy things about us–”We will bury you!”–as the Iranians occasionally say about Israel.

An attack on Iran by Israel, or by the United States, will not stop the Iranian nuclear program for very long–and may well intensify it, since there will be all the more reason for Iranians to fear aggression from the west. An attack will, however, prompt a counterattack by Hizballah or another of the terrorist proxies the regime backs around the world. Iran has capabilities that neither Iraq nor Afghanistan had; it can hit us where we live–and it can certainly strike at the heart of Israel, via Hizballah. For these and other reasons, I have yet to meet a ranking member of the U.S. military who favors an attack on Iran.

Indeed, I haven’t met very many Americans who are seeking another war, or greater uncertainty, or more wounded warriors, or murdered diplomats. When I take my annual road trips, I very rarely hear people mention Iran at all–and those who do mention it are Jews concerned for the future of Israel. That is a legitimate concern; I’m worried, too–as much by the aggressive Likud delusion of a Greater Israel, which its neighbors will inevitably see as a threat, as I am by Iran’s offensive behavior. But you should know: most Americans don’t care about this at all. They see China as our greatest foreign policy challenge. They see Al Qaeda as our most dangerous enemy. And they’re right about both.

The truth is, Iran is a political issue more than a national security challenge. It has achieved the prominence in the current debate that it was because Bibi Netanyahu and his neoconservative pals have made it an issue, because twisted American zillionaires like Sheldon Adelson have bought politicians to promote it, because Jewish organizations like AIPAC and the ADL and the AJC have conflated Israel’s national security with our own–and their perceptions of Israel’s long-term national security are, I believe, grievously flawed.

But think about it: What if David Cameron was pushing us to go to war with Argentina over the Falklands? What if India was interfering with the American presidential campaign in order to promote an attack on Pakistan? When was the last time a foreign leader tried to influence an American political campaign? Oh, I remember–Osama bin Laden, in 2004. He was our mortal enemy, of course, not a beloved ally like Israel. It goes without saying that there’s zero moral equivalence between Israel and the terrorists.

But Netanyahu is doing two things that should be intolerable for any patriotic American: he is a foreigner trying to influence our presidential campaign and he is a foreigner trying to shove us into a war of choice in a region where far too many Americans have already died needlessly. The Romney campaign–as well as AIPAC, the AJC and every other American Jewish organization–should make it clear to Netanyahu that his interventions into our political process and policy-making are not welcome here.

91 comments
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formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

President Obama will have Israel's back within reason, in spite of Bibi.  Just don't get stupid. President Obama doesn't do stupid.

Mohamed Elshahawy
Mohamed Elshahawy

Dear

Non-Muslims, please let me to clarify the reason of the Muslim youth's

raging anger during the past 48 hours. These protests and demonstrations

are a reflex to an extremely offensive and insulting Anti-Islam movie

that was produced in the United States of America by a crew of citizens

of the United States which sparked a state of madness of Muslims around

the world. Please be fair and positive, foster peace between nations by

demonstrating for making a law against defamation of religions in the

United States. and many other hateful actions that are not legally

banned in US like they legally ban and punish anyone insults or even

makes a doubt in the Zionism and Holocaust!! You can know more about Islam and The Final Messenger of God after Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him). "Islam In Brief" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... "The Empire of Islam" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... "Jihad On Terrorism" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v... Please spread the word, just to let others know more about us ... building bridges instead of walls mixed with political wars

sheldondanto
sheldondanto

This is not a situation of OBAMA yielding to pressure..this is a meeting, a strategy session, which he should want to actively participate. This is important. So important that he should have initiated the meeting. His reluctance shows a lack of commitment and can weaken the perception of the American commitment. Obama's actions or lack of actions only strengthen IRANs actions.

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

Says who?  You and Bibi baby?  News flash for you and Bibi: President Obama won't be manipulated and he will call the shots.

Algeria Touchshriek
Algeria Touchshriek

Hey Joe, great piece.  One thing to keep in mind is that Ehud and most of the Israeli military leadership have cooled on Bibi's plan, which leaves him in a politically desperate situation.  It's looking more and more like he chose the wrong coalition from the outset.

6thangle
6thangle

Simple blood and great piece !! 

Talendria
Talendria

"I believe that if the Iranians are foolish enough to 'break out' and assemble a weapon, deterrence will be its only purpose."

I wouldn't put all my eggs in that basket.  The Middle East as a whole is embracing fundamentalism, not rationality, so the concept of mutually assured destruction may not be an effective deterrent for people who are happy to sacrifice themselves for Allah.

ZachStevens
ZachStevens

The USA gives this ungrateful people over 10 billion per year. The jews sent over Mossad agents to spy on the USA and they found out the 9/11 attacks were coming. And as the planes hit the WTC they screamed with joy and jumped up and down. They knew that the stupid Goy would focus it's anger towards the muslim world and we would waste our resources and blood on wars that benefited Israhell. I am tired of our people being manipulated by these parasites. They are so ungrateful and look down with disgust at nonjews. They have a lobby org called AIPAC that bribes our politicians to do their bidding. Our representatives never dare criticize Israhell for fear of getting punished next election. Imagine if all that money and those resources were poured into the USA and not on Israhell's wars. The level of prosperity would be amazing. Israhell kills Arabs on a daily basis. It subjects them to an illegal occupation that is brutal. We support them with money and weapons. And they laugh at us because the USA is so naive. Atleast with the internet we can hear other views. When the jews dominated the print media you could never hear anything else but "Israel is our best friend". But they are not and never have been.

akahen
akahen

Wow!! An Arab chose a Jewish name and posted something so Anti-Semitic that it is just sickening.  The funniest part is that they know it is Anti-Semitic and that is why they need to post it as a "Jewish" name to legitimize the argument.

I have seen this over and over and over!!! If you are going to be hateful, at least have the courage to show your nationality or beliefs or political ideology. 

Loser!!!

IcarusRising
IcarusRising

The United states is democratic and sovereign. No other country in the world can be allowed to give us ultimatums, least of all Israel and their Bibi. This is like biting the hand that feeds you, as without US support on all fronts, to the detriment to our standing and national interests, Israel would not have been able to survive till this date. They don't seem to get it!

If they want to commit suicide regardless of our governments better counsel, then let them reap what they sow. We have our own country to rebuild for the future.

Mike P
Mike P

Keep making the case Joe. Do not let up. People are listening and learning; I know I am.

FLGyant
FLGyant

Its the common self-interest among nations to pursue trade that creates interdependence.  There is nothing wrong with pursuit of "self interest and national interest"  as this behavior can foster interdependence.  For example the China US relationship.  Why would I go to war with my largest trade partner?

rokinsteve
rokinsteve

Bibi Netanyahu is a pure hate war vulture.  If Iran wanted war they would have

attacked Israel long ago.  It's just Middle East boasting.

Gregg Paucek
Gregg Paucek

obama should pass on this issue. Let President Romney handle it!!!

Armand Winter
Armand Winter

This is an election card played by Romney and his Zionist buddies, the Koch Brothers, Adelson and all the stupid Evangelicals.

Netanyahu has the nerve to come over here and make demands of our military on 9/11?

What a jerk.

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

Zionist buddies??? Stupid Evangelicals??? I mean, I support Obama but you might want to rethink your vitriolic and extreme generalizations. GOSH!!!

daddydelight
daddydelight

Imagine if the state of Israel was not created " Jews Vatican City " if the world would be peaceful .  If Israel is wiped off thee face of the earth , it will be by there own doing. That me, me, me , mentality / arrogance gets you no where.  Go fight your own wars , we had enough of our most precious men, women and citizens lose there lives over a self centered , egotistical , selfish and  inconsiderate children. 

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

You are wrong about Israel. This PM is a war monger but remember that under Clinton, a Peace Agreement was almost brokered between the Palestinians and Israelis.   

ihk888
ihk888

I have many Jews friends and regarded Jews as smart for long period of time yet as they are as dumb as any other race including Palestinian, they control like what Nazi did to Jews except gas chamber,  now we, American  had to listen to this paranoid so-called leader of democratic country in the Middle East. it is amazing so many American Jews still behind this insane man who will do anything to hold on his power. many of descendent of founding of Israel state oppose his militant, table pounding man. do you see much difference between Bibi and the other lunatic from Iran? Romney will go to war to get Jews vote, don't care what happen to the US, barely alive post Great Recession. He is trying to put nails on coffin then blame Obama, for not dropping atomic bomb in Tehran

ykessler
ykessler

Israel has never asked for anyone to do their dirty work- indeed it's they who are tasked with doing the West’s dirty work, by dealing with terrorists and rogue regimes first, out of necessity. We have Israel to thank for the fact that Saddam had no nukes to use against the US in 91 and 03, and for the fact that the Assad regime has no nukes today.

In both those instances, Israel asked for neither help nor permission. That country’s MO is to do what it needs to do, because it knows that in the end the only country if can fully count on is itself.

Now Israel finds itself in a predicament where its window for acting is shrinking fast, and it needs to make a decision: act now as best it can, or receive rock-solid assurance that it will have a partner in action when it can no longer act alone.

Bibi's position is simple and justified: Help out or get out of the way.

daddydelight
daddydelight

Imagine if Israel was not created a state . Just imagine and think if we would have a Saddam , or al-Queda. 

ykessler
ykessler

Imagine if you were never created- the world would have one less idiot.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©
ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

Thanks for the giant load of Likudnik propaganda.

Now go away.

~

ykessler
ykessler

Aw what's the matter- reality raining on the delusion parade? If you've got a problem with my facts then try rebutting instead of whining.

FLGyant
FLGyant

I dont think its a load of Likud propaganda.  Isn't the history there?  Purported nuclear sites bombed.  I beleive its happened atleast twice where Israel bombed sites.

Allen Z. Hertz
Allen Z. Hertz

Re "Enter Bibi" -- So, here we have an "expert" psychiatric opinion from Joe Klein to the effect that:  "The Iranian government is dreadful and brutal, but not crazy." But, what does it mean for a government to be "crazy"? Was Hitler's Nazi government crazy? And if so, how many people agreed with that "crazy" diagnosis in 1938, as opposed to 1945? Is there not a point at which certain perverse values and a specific ideology so corrupt a regime's thinking that it is prepared to do truly terrible things, like the systemic murder of 6 million Jews in Europe or --as in the case of the ayatollahs-- to murder six million Jews in the Middle East. Whether right-wing or left-wing, the Israel government has a moral and legal right to defend itself. Self-defense is a fundamental principle of international law and natural law. Moreover, rabbinic responsa teach that I have an obligation to kill first he who comes armed to my door to kill me and mine. Joe Klein's "expert" references to Russia and China are laughable. Neither  is a friend of the USA. Both have directly or indirectly assisted Iran's nuclear weapons program. Neither will really ever cooperate to effectively shut down Iran's race to nuclear weapons. To the contrary, there is a sense in which both Russia and China probably welcome Iran's race to nuclear weapons. An Iran armed with nuclear weapons, and the missiles to deliver them, strikes the end of the USA's hour as predominant power in the Middle East. More than anything else, Russian and Chinese foreign policy aim at seeing the USA taken down a peg. A weaker USA will appreciably enhance Russian and Chinese national security. For sure, Israel is a bit player in a bigger game where the USA is shaping up to be a colossal loser. And President Obama? In what way are his policies different from those of UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in 1938? No, President Obama is far worse than Chamberlain, because the USA today is incomparably stronger than was the UK in 1938. From his first day in office, President Obama has moved the pieces on the board to weaken Israel and set it up for defeat. His goal has always been to do to Israel what was done to Czechoslovakia by the September 1938 Munich Accord. Whether in the Middle East, Europe or the Far East, where is there a foreign government that now trusts President Obama? Do the Saudis trust him? And, what about the Japanese who are beginning to feel the push of a China which has taken Obama's measure and therefore feels emboldened to assert itself? In the 1960's, it was fashionable to deride President de Gaulle's insistence on the "force de frappe." However, now that the USA's nuclear umbrella is no longer credited, both France and the UK are probably pleased to have their own nuclear deterrent vis a vis Iran, just as Germany and the other European states are likely anxious because they lack their own nuclear weapons. This is the brave new world that has been created by President Obama's so-called "foreign policy." Murdering Osama bin Laden and a series of drone-strike killings are no substitute for a robust, confident and effective USA foreign policy. History allows no "time out." The USA must meet its challenges when they present themselves. The "alpha male" wolf also has to fight on his way down, just as he had to fight on his way to the top. Certainly Israel faces some difficult choices, but the USA also approaches a fateful moment that will have tremendous consequences for Americans.

JZimm09
JZimm09

Obama has kept his word militarily.  Got bin Laden amp; many other al-Qaeda leaders.  Increased aid amp; care to returning vets.  Pulled out of Iraq.  He said he will not allow Iran to get a nuclear weapon amp; he means it.  Nothing he has done military has been like a wuss.

Netanyahu is trying to push him around because of the election.  But Obama doesn't let people push him around.  So  Netanyahu will have to suck his thumb on this one.

fhmadvocat
fhmadvocat

Joe,

Let me play devil's "advocat" here.  Maybe Bibi is trying to be "bad cop" to Obama's "good cop".

As far as not interfering in another country's election, you need to tell that to Bill Clinton.  After all, his team assisted Ehud Barack's election over Bibi many years ago.  You can be sure Bibi hasn't forgotten what happened.

Bill Pearlman
Bill Pearlman

Yet again Joe ( man of the people Klein ) is on top of the international Jewish conspiracy.He doesn't  even need them to have yellow stars and toatooed arms .When the Iranians talk about eradicating the Jewish cancer in the middle east, no problem for Mr Klein.  But Netanuyahu, a combat veteran who lost his brother in action. What does he know about the threats facing Israel.  Not like Joe Klein

formerlyjamesm
formerlyjamesm

Your play of the Holocaust card is shameful and disgusting.

Juaquin Mann
Juaquin Mann

Netanyahu trying to dictate American foriegn policy and American politics. This guy is a right wing hawk that Israel has thrown out of office once in disgust. And now Romney is having a love affair with this guy and likely coordinating his campaigning with Netanyahu as well.  Bibi and Mitt, scary combo!

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius found guilty of violating the Hatch Act.

http://www.osc.gov/documents/p...

Benevolent Lawyer
Benevolent Lawyer

 LL, I do not know what this site would be, without the great happy news you share. Dude, get a life!! 

LiberalLies2012
LiberalLies2012

Go jump in a lake wacko

Steve0T
Steve0T

 Teabag scum resorting to petty insults. Time to call your care-giver.

askerman
askerman

Klein is a Holocaust supporting self hating Jew.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

And you are a bad stereo type of the kind of knee jerk reactions that have gotten us into two wars with no funding or contingency plans.

askerman
askerman

 And you are a bad stereotype for the kind of a**hole who cheered the 9/11 attacks.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

How original. Unfortunately the only A**holes in this country that cheered the 9/11 attacks were the defense contractors who saw a huge pay day coming their way. The same defense contractors who stand to profit massively of Romney gets elected.