In the Arena

Bibi Being Ridiculous

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At first, I thought that Bibi Netanyahu’s position that the U.S. had to make progress on getting Iran to stop its nuclear fuel enrichment program before he’d start negotiating with the Palestinians was a joke, a rhetorical extravagance intended to get the U.S. to put a little more pressure on Iran. But, it appears, he’s serious. At the heart is a basic misreading of Israel’s Sunni Arab neighbors, who are–it is true–as concerned about Iran’s nuclear ambitions, and support for para-military groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, as Netanyahu is. (I recently had lunch with a prominent Arab leader and Iran was Topic A, with the plight of the Palestinians an afterthought.)

And while it’s true that the Arabs are more worried about Iran these days, Israel’s colonialist settlement policies on the west bank–and its overreactions in Gaza and Lebanon–make it impossible for the Sunni governments to form the sort of anti-Iranian alliance that Netanyahu is fantasizing about. Furthermore, Israel’s continuing, crass and illegal encroachment into Palestinian lands–which Palestinians consider every bit as immoral as Israel considers suicide bombers–makes it less likely that a two-state solution will be viable.

My guess is that Bibi’s real agenda is the slow annexation of the west bank via Israeli settlement. He will do anything to slow or avoid doing what has to be done: not just stopping the settlements, but rolling them back. His next step, I’m told, will be to make a show of opening negotiations with the Syrians, knowing that glaciers move faster than the Assad family does when it comes to diplomacy. The Obama Administration has made it clear that it wants the settlements stopped. But it may need to do more than make the sort of perfunctory statements that George W. Bush g0t away with. The President may risk the ire of America’s Professional Jews–the AIPAC and neoconservative gang–if he gets tougher with Israel. But those Jewish noisemakers, who represent a minority of American Jewish public opinion, will be taking a risk, too,  if they oppose this very popular President who won the support of 78% of Jewish-American voters.

Nazis Everywhere–Redux: Put Newt Gingrich and AIPAC together and what do you get?…Why, Nazis, of course. Did you even have to ask? I will not say that Newt was exploring the nether reaches of Jewish philanthropy for his alleged 2012 presidential campaign. Perhaps he really believes that we now face a choice between 1939 and 1979. Perhaps he really believes:

“We need to recognize that there are some regimes we will never be able to cut a deal with because they are in fact evil.”And as if that was not clear enough he explained, “Ahmadinejad if he gets the weapons will be every bit as evil as Hilter.”

But if he really believed that, wouldn’t he take the trouble to be accurate and say: “If the Supreme Leader gets the weapons, he will be every bit as evil as Hitler”? But no, the flagrantly powerless Ahmadinejad is the public anti-semite, so he gets empowered by Gingrich. Again, Iran’s drive to refine nuclear fuel is legal–under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty–but a matter of real concern, especially if, as expected, the Iranians are trying to get into the same position as the Japanese. That is, to be bomb-capable if not clearly armed. It would be nice to try to prevent that. But the more Americans, and Israelis, sound as demagogic and threatening as Gingrich, the more likely it is that Iranians employ the obvious response and arm themselves in order to provide a deterrent against nuttery. Gingrich’s saber-rattling may help in the fundraising department but, happily, it doesn’t–as John McCain found out–necessarily win elections. It also makes America less safe.