“Benjamin Netanyahu succeeded in landing on ‘enemy territory’ and then making it home safe and sound,” opens one of the most interesting commentaries on the Israeli prime minister’s speech in the Congress past week in which he accused White House of doing nothing to prevent Iran of getting nuclear armament. The target of Bibi’s speech was not Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian supreme leader, but American President Obama and Israeli swing voters, the Atlantic noted later. By doing so, Netanyahu played right into the hands of the conservative Republicans and proved his ignorance, said the paper.
It was a weird performance. And yet it seems like nobody among the legislators, members of media and pundits felt that Netanyahu’s behavior in Congress could be considered a humiliation for United States. Other than a few angry tweets against the impostor and some scattered comments from the network loyal to president Obama, there was no other voice to remind the Israeli prime minister of his disrespectful language and inappropriate behavior as he was giving orders to American president. Why the silence? How did China and other countries unfriendly with America react to Bibi’s paternal advice to Obama, which received standing ovations from the Congress? How did the friendly European countries react, watching this incomprehensible spectacle? Was America silent because it is too big to get offended? My experience tells me that even smaller countries would protest, or at least try to defend their dignity. But America? Netanyahu cynically exploited the hatred Republicans feel for President Obama. And since he used their own language, he got awarded with thunderous applause, which he hopes to translate into votes during this week’s elections in Israel. As someone who is neither American nor Israeli, I was reminded of a dictator who came to tell the legislature that their Congress has been dissolved.
Once again it was a comedian who came to rescue his own country. But, is it a joke – referring to the standing ovations for Israeli prime minister as, “the longest blow job a Jewish man has ever received”? Enough to cover up the nation’s embarrassment? Obviously not.
And yet America does not lack good news coverage of Israel. One only has to read the New Yorker – the passionate and brilliant reporting by David Remnick – to get to know Israel and to understand the doings of Netanyahu. Anybody who has read his articles in the last few years – such as “The Dissenters”, “The One-State Reality”, and “Neocon Gambits” – will realize the downhill road Israel took under Netanyahu’s leadership. It is his governance that makes Israel more and more unpopular and isolated, creating major security risks and cutting the links between Israel and what is left of the liberal American Jewish community.
But there is another dimension to this Bibi affair. The day before Netanyahu’s speech in Congress, Stratfor’s George Friedman laid out an interesting point of view based on the evolution of U.S.-Israel relations – the long reciprocal dependence of the two countries – and the new geopolitical framework proposed and pushed ahead by the White House. The latter might be a real reason for the Netanyahu’s aggressive stand, hints Friedman, writing that the speech to Congress is not about Netanyahu and Obama, but about the reconfiguration of a region that the U.S. cannot subdue and cannot leave. In the new geopolitical framework appearing on the horizon, Israel may no longer be the only American ally in the region. But in order to achieve this plan, Obama should use his secret weapon against Bibi, says Israeli analyst Akiva Eldar: he should continue to negotiate with Iran and then declare the Middle East a zone free of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, Eldar concludes.