E. J. Dionne Jr. on "The wound Netanyahu left"
Bibi is greeted by members of Congress before his speech Tuesday. "It was disconcerting," E.J. says, "to watch Congress cheer wildly as a foreign leader, the prime minister of one of the United States' closest allies, trashed an American president's foreign policy."
"It fell to Isaac Herzog, Benjamin Netanyahu's leading opponent in Israel’s March 17 election, to make the essential point: that Tuesday's speech was 'a very harsh wound to Israel-U.S. relations' and 'will only widen the rift with Israel's greatest ally and strategic partner.' "
-- E. J. Dionne Jr., in his Washington Post
column "The wound Netanyahu left"
column "The wound Netanyahu left"
Well, good luck to Isaac Herzog, because I don't imagine the mass of Israelis are any more interested in hearing this message than the mass of Americans, who know virtually nothing about Iran, or possibly less than nothing when you consider how much of what they think they know is bullshit. From our media, meanwhile, we seem to hear little except the great triumph Bibi's speech was, rather than the great shame it was -- to him; to his U.S. political patrons, notably House Speaker "Sunny John" Boehner; and to the American people.
As E. J. Dionne Jr., that perennially fairest and most balanced of political observers, writes in his Washington Post column "The wound Netanyahu left": "The rapturous greeting that Congress bestowed on Netanyahu for his attack on President Obama’s approach to negotiations with Iran no doubt created great footage for television ads back home and won him some votes at the right end of Israel’s electorate."
For E.J., however, "it was disconcerting to watch Congress cheer wildly as a foreign leader, the prime minister of one of the United States' closest allies, trashed an American president's foreign policy." And "it was equally strange that the speaker of our House of Representatives interjected the U.S. Congress into an Israeli political campaign."
And, E.J. says, "Herzog’s observation stands":
John Boehner’s unprecedented act of inviting the leader of another nation to criticize our president, and Netanyahu’s decision to accept, threaten to damage the bipartisan and transideological coalition that has always come together on behalf of Israel’s survival."This is what he was accusing Obama of doing," E.J. says. "No wonder House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) described herself as 'near tears' over Netanyahu's 'condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran.' "
Netanyahu may have spoken the words, “We appreciate all that President Obama has done for Israel,” but the rest of his speech painted the president as foolish and on the verge of being duped on a nuclear deal by the mullahs in Tehran.
The Israeli leader reached for the most devastating metaphor available to him, the appeasement of the Nazis that led to the Holocaust. He urged the United States “not to sacrifice the future for the present” and “not to ignore aggression in the hopes of gaining an illusory peace.”
E.J. doesn't put it this way, but the issue here really is that the minds of far-right-wingers, like Bibi in Israel and the American right-wing bloc I usually refer to as Anti-Semites for Israel, apparently can't function without anointing demons who stand at the opposite end of the virtue spectrum from us-the-saintly. None of this has anything to do with the real world.
As E.J. points out, nobody believes that "the Iranian regime in its current form is trustworthy." That's just your typical right-wing straw man, perhaps based on their carefully cultivated mental incapacity to imagine any situation more complex than the choice between vanilla and chocolate -- or, more aptly, between ice cream and toxic sludge. It's inconceivable to them that the Iranians are capable of acting rationally in their own self-interest, perhaps because they themselves are incapable of acting rationally in our self-interest. Acute simple-mindedness doesn't allow it.
"At stake" with Iran, says E.J., "is a balance of risks, a choice between two imperfect outcomes."
On one side is a deal that would buy at least a decade in which Iran would not be able to produce a nuclear weapon and would be subjected to inspections and other limitations. On the other side is a decision to blow up the current negotiations because the guarantees of any likely accord would not be sufficiently airtight.What Bibi really dreaming of, E.J. notes, is regime change. "But how exactly," he asks, "could that happen without armed conflict?"
Yes, the emerging deal does carry the risk that down the road Iran could get nuclear weapons. But failing to reach an agreement will not necessarily stop Tehran from going nuclear, and an end to negotiations would in no way ensure that the rest of the world would return to effective sanctions.
And, one might add, looking at our recent record of supporting various regime changes, is there any sane reason to hope that we can influence the situation to an outcome that's even happier for us, let alone the people living under whatever regime is in question. It boggles my mind that right-wing foreign-policy delusionals have gotten away with demonizing President Obama for making foreign-policy decisions in the Middle East that may be debatable but are at least recognizably in touch with reality. Press them for alternatives, whether it's on Syria or Iraq or Egypt or Afghanistan or Libya, and you psychotic war-mongering imbecility that ensures a significantly more dangerous and deadly outcome.
Again, E.J. is too confoundedly polite and even-handed to put it this way. He does allow, though, that Bibi did an end run around the reality of the Iranian situation "offering a thoroughly rosy scenario."
“Now, if Iran threatens to walk away from the table — and this often happens in a Persian bazaar — call their bluff,” he said. “They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.” Really? If the Iranian regime is as horrible as Netanyahu says it is, why does he expect its leaders to be as flexible as if they were haggling over the price of a carpet?"The crux of the difference between Obama and Netanyahu," he insists, "is about a bet on the future."
The Israeli prime minister argued that “the ideology of Iran’s revolutionary regime is deeply rooted in militant Islam, and that’s why this regime will always be an enemy of America.” He added, “I don’t believe that Iran’s radical regime will change for the better after this deal.”And Bibi, E.J. notes, "never gave a satisfactory answer to the most important question: What is the alternative?"
Obama’s bet, by contrast, is that a deal opening up space and time would provide the best chance of encouraging political evolution in Iran. Of course there is no guarantee of this, but it’s a reasonable assumption that ending the negotiations would set back the forces of change.
Skeptics of an agreement, Netanyahu included, can usefully push Obama to get the longest timeline and the toughest guarantees he can, and U.S. negotiators can try to use the threat of opposition in Congress to strengthen the final terms.
He concludes by saying of "Netanyahu’s provocative and divisive intervention in U.S. politics" and "Boehner’s meddling in Israel’s election": "The voters of our friend and ally will render a judgment soon."
Yes, they will, but I don't see any reason to believe that that judgment will be any more sensibly based than the one we're hearing in the homeland of the Anti-Semites for Israel.