Thursday, December 29, 2016 at 8:57 AM

Netanyahu’s a Putz for Branding Obama a Judas over UN Resolution

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Netanyahu will never miss an opportunity to undermine peace with Israel’s enemies — even if that means making enemies of Israel’s friends.

(“Chutzpah: Israeli PM to Address US Congress,” The iPINIONS Journal, January 23, 2015)

Bear this quote in mind as you read below.

A truly stupefying feature of the relationship between Israel and the United States is the way the former presumes that the latter is obligated to support its policies whether they are right or wrong.

This presumption was thrown into stark relief last year when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed a special session of Congress. For he spent most of it chastising President Obama for daring to strike a nuclear deal with Iran, which he falsely claimed poses an existential threat to Israel.

Not to mention that the leaders of Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and Germany all joined Obama in negotiating this deal pursuant to their shared interest in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Which is why it rang hollow when Netanyahu criticized only Obama in this context as weak and naïve.

Never mind the wonder that his well-documented record of crying wolf about Iran’s nuclear program did not cause him to bite his tongue.

A SERIOUS [sic] threat of nuclear war hangs over Israel, Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu told the Knesset plenum yesterday…

‘Within three to five years, we can assume that Iran will become autonomous in its ability to develop and produce a nuclear bomb, without having to import either the technology or the material,’ Netanyahu said. ‘[The nuclear threat] must be uprooted by an international front headed by the US.’

(Jerusalem Post, January 12, 1995)

At the very least, this record should have compelled even the Republican-controlled Congress to deny him such an authoritative forum to pose presumptuous and plainly disingenuous challenges to a sitting president. Arguably, his collusion with Republicans for this occasion constituted an unprecedented act of political mutiny. I duly chastised him and them in “Republicans Send ‘Mutinous’ Letter to Iran,” March 17, 2015.

Incidentally, it is noteworthy that, despite his doctrinaire opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, Netanyahu never offered any credible alternative. Which is even more irresponsible than the fact that, despite their doctrinaire opposition to Obamacare, Republicans never offered any credible alternative.

In any event:

Netanyahu seems to think Israel can get by with a little help from its friends — even if those friends comprise just a small faction of Christian fundamentalists and neo-cons within the U.S. Republican Party.

(“Netanyahu’s Call for Jewish Exodus more Sharpton than Moses,” The iPINIONS Journal, February 23, 2015)

Only that explains this:

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lashed out Saturday at what he called the ‘old-world bias against Israel,’ attacking President Obama and the United Nations over a resolution that criticized Israel’s settlement activity in the West Bank and East Jerusalem…

The resolution, which was brought for a vote Friday in the U.N. Security Council, declared that settlements built on land Israel has occupied since the 1967 Arab-Israeli war have ‘no legal validity’ and are a threat to the possibility of creating two states — one for Israelis and one for Palestinians…

In a statement after the vote, Netanyahu said the Obama administration had ‘not only failed to protect Israel against this gang-up at the U.N., it has colluded with it behind the scenes.’

(Washington Post, December 24, 2016)

It clearly does not matter one iota to Netanyahu that, by abstaining on this resolution, the Obama administration spared Israel a unanimous condemnation. After all, every other member of the Security Council voted to support it.

Granted, even as she abstained, Obama’s UN ambassador, Samantha Power, vented in unison with those condemning Israel on one critical point.

Ms. Power said the United States chose not to veto the resolution, as it had done to a similar measure under Mr. Obama in 2011, because settlement building had accelerated so much that it had put the two-state solution in jeopardy, and because the peace process had gone nowhere.

‘Today the Security Council reaffirmed its established consensus that settlements have no legal validity. The United States has been sending a message that settlements must stop privately and publicly for nearly five decades.’

(New York Times, December 23, 2016)

Moreover there’s this:

The International Court of Justice … ruled that Jewish settlements in what it calls occupied Palestinian territory are illegal. The U.S. has deemed settlements an obstacle to peace. The Arab world considers them occupation of land that belongs in an independent Palestinian state.

(Bloomberg, December 23, 2016)

Yet successive Israeli governments have not only defied international law but made successive U.S. governments complicit in expanding Jewish settlements in occupied Palestinian territories; so much so that the population of Jewish settlers has grown from just over 10,000 in the 1970s to well over 700,000 today.

This, in fairness to Netanyahu, compels me to stress that every prime minister has acted as if Israel’s you-and-me-against-the-world approach to foreign policy means that the United States should have its back – come what may, no matter what.

Hence U.S. presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower have been obliged to do on many occasions what Netanyahu is accusing Obama of doing this one and only time, namely, abstaining from voting on a UN resolution critical of Israel. But some presidents have done far more, namely, voting to condemn Israel. Ronald Reagan did so three times; George H.W. Bush, nine.

This is why Netanyahu’s crocodile wailing since last week’s vote  – that “friends don’t take friends to the Security Council” – is as disingenuous as it is mischievous. Not to mention that the elder Bush became so frustrated with Israel’s defiance in this respect, he had his secretary of state, James Baker, rebuke Israel during congressional testimony with this now-famous message:

Everybody over there should know that the telephone number for the White House is (202) 456-1414.  When you’re serious about peace, call us!

(New York Times, June 14, 1990)

That was over 25 years ago, folks. And there’s clear and convincing evidence that Israel is still not serious about peace. Israel can be forgiven its persecution complex, but its imperious treatment not only of Palestinians but also of U.S. presidents militates against forgiveness.

All of which raises the following questions:

  • Why is Netanyahu denouncing Obama as a proverbial betrayer for merely abstaining on this one resolution, given that no Israeli prime minister has ever denounced any other U.S. president as such for repeatedly abstaining on similar resolutions?
  • Why is Netanyahu accusing Obama of colluding with the international community to draft this resolution, given that other U.S. presidents have openly led the international community in drafting similar resolutions?

This prime minister doth protest too much, methinks. After all, Obama has done more for Israel than any other president with respect to protecting it against UN resolutions and providing security guarantees. Here, for example, is what no less a person than Ehud Barak, former Israeli prime minister (1999 to 2001) and defense minister (2007 to 2013), said about Obama’s commitment to and support of Israel:

I am saying very clearly that this administration in regard to Israel’s security – and we are traditionally supported by each and every American president in our generation – but under this administration we went even further into a clear, deep, deep commitment to the security of Israel.

(Charlie Rose, March 24, 2010)

And that commendation did not include this unprecedented demonstration of support to bookend his presidency:

The United States and Israel signed a defense aid agreement on Wednesday that promises Israel $38 billion over 10 years, from 2019 through 2028…

‘Both Prime Minister Netanyahu and I are confident that the new MOU will make a significant contribution to Israel’s security in what remains a dangerous neighborhood,’ Obama said. … ‘As I have emphasized previously, the only way for Israel to endure and thrive as a Jewish and democratic state is through the realization of an independent and viable Palestine.’

(Haaretz, September 14, 2016)

Given this, one could be forgiven the impression that the more Obama did for Israel the more Netanyahu resented him. Alas, one could also be forgiven the suspicion that racism, which animated Donald Trump’s birther crusade and Republican efforts to make him a failed president, has animated Netanyahu’s presumptuous behavior towards Obama.

As it happens, Netanyahu only reinforced this suspicion in recent days by acting as if President-elect Trump – whom he hails as “a true friend of the state of Israel” – is already the president of the United States.

Incidentally, I’ve decried this antic disposition towards Obama in many commentaries over the years, including “2014 Midterm Elections: Republicans and the Triumph of Irrational Exuberance,” November 5, 2014, “Super-Rich Irony,” October 5, 2012, and “Delusions of Despair Undermining Obama’s Presidency?” June 21, 2012.

Enough said?

Except that I feel constrained to add that Netanyahu seems hell-bent on emulating South Africa’s Apartheid leaders by turning Israel into a pariah state. No less a person than former President Jimmy Carter is on record lamenting this – not only in his authoritative book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid, but also during his frequent visits to the Middle East.

Carter, who served as U.S. president from 1977 to 1981, said he believes that Netanyahu has no intention of pursuing peace, and lamented that ‘They [Palestinians] will never get equal rights [to Israeli Jews, in a one-state solution].’

Netanyahu ‘does not now and has never sincerely believed in a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine,’ Carter added.

(Times of Israel, August 13, 2013)

Netanyahu is clearly playing the religious card by complaining about Obama and the UN ganging up on Israel throughout the peace process. But this is as factually and morally bankrupt as Trump playing the media card by complaining about Hillary and the media ganging up on him throughout the election process.

Frankly, even in Trump’s “post-fact, post-truth” world, there’s no denying that Netanyahu and his settlement policy have been the greatest obstacles to peace. Worse still, by expanding and fortifying this apartheid policy, Israel is rendering specious its clarion boast about being the only democracy in the Middle East. Indeed, with all due respect to Reagan, peace through strength to Netanyahu amounts to might makes right.

And it does not bode well that Trump seems determined to parrot everything Netanyahu says and support everything he does. This would make a mockery of the role U.S. presidents have traditionally played as honest broker in the Sisyphean Mideast peace process.

As my title indicates, Netanyahu is casting Obama as a Judas the betrayer of Israel’s biblical efforts to occupy Palestinian territories. Trump is buying into this by casting himself as a Christ the redeemer of those efforts.

But he will realize soon enough that brokering a peace deal in the Middle East is a far cry from opening a hotel or running a casino, especially given his infamous record of failure with respect to the latter. More to the point, the vexing feature of that realization will undoubtedly be Netanyahu’s manifest determination to impose a neo-apartheid peace deal on the Palestinian people.

Apropos of which, Israel is as isolated on the world stage today as South Africa was at the height of Apartheid.

Frankly, instead of trying in vain to rally the world to maintain crippling sanctions against Iran for fomenting terrorism, Netanyahu should be worried about former president Jimmy Carter rallying the world to impose sanctions against Israel for building (what Carter has decried as) an apartheid state, where Jews treat Palestinians the way whites treated blacks in Apartheid South Africa.

(“Obama Leads World to Historic Nuclear Deal with Iran,” The iPINIONS Journal, July 15, 2015)

And Netanyahu is only compounding Israel’s isolation with petty, spiteful gestures purporting to punish members of the Security Council who voted for this resolution:

In a further response to a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday reportedly ordered the Foreign Ministry to suspend all working ties with 12 of the countries that voted in favor of the decision…

Of the 15 countries on the UN Security Council, 14 voted in favor of Resolution 2334, which demands a halt to all Israeli settlement activity, with one abstention, that of the U.S.

Activities involving the embassies of Britain, France, Russia, China, Japan, Ukraine, Angola, Egypt, Uruguay, Spain, Senegal and New Zealand will be suspended, and the ambassadors of those countries will not be received at Israel’s Foreign Ministry, an official said.

(Times of Israel, December 25, 2016)

Unsurprisingly, congressional Republicans are aiding Netanyahu in his foolhardy and unsustainable attempts to exact retribution. These, of course, are the same Republicans who misled him to think he could derail the nuclear deal with Iran by damning it in that ill-fated address to a joint session of Congress.

In fact, Senator Lindsey Graham is leading the chorus of those resuming calls for the United States to defund the United Nations. Never mind that these calls are no more practicable than their calls to defund Obamacare.

More importantly, it behooves these Israel-can-do-no-wrong Republicans to appreciate that China would be all too willing to not only pick up the slack in funding but move its headquarters from New York to Beijing to boot.

Actually, in their partisan and myopic efforts to make Obama a failed president, Republicans have so undermined America’s global influence and appeal that I suspect a majority of member countries would be happy to move. What’s more, this development would be entirely consistent with China’s geopolitical strategy of using cash to buy the kind of global influence the United States fought wars to attain.

Except that there’s a Trump card, which makes talk of defunding the UN under a Trump administration all hot air. After all, Trump relies on far too many UN diplomats for rental and other income. And let’s face it, he has already telegraphed that his presidency will be all about doing what’s best for Trump.

NOTE: A few enlightened Republicans are calling for sanctions against Vladimir Putin because they realize that Putin can hack them the way he hacked Democrats. These Republicans would do well to demand an apology from Netanyahu because they should realize that Netanyahu can show the same kind of contempt for President Trump that he has shown for President Obama (the current bromance between Netanyahu and Trump notwithstanding).

Not to mention the contempt he’s showing for the American taxpayer by, on the one hand, taking $38 billion for Israel’s security, while on the other hand, declaring that “no foreign government” has any right to lecture his government on what it takes for peace.

Related commentaries:
Chutzpah
Netanyahu condemns nuclear deal
Republicans send mutinous letter
Triumph of irrational exuberance
Super-rich irony
Delusions of despair

*  This commentary was originally published yesterday, Wednesday, at 9:39 a.m.

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