Friday, March 20, 2015

Birds Of A Feather

“He was for it before he was against it…and against it before he was for it.”

With those words columnist and best-selling author Mark Halperin summed up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s brazenly political tactics in the days immediately surrounding his re-election.

In 2009 Beebe Netanyahu said that he supported a peaceful two state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In 2015, the day before voters were to decide if he deserved to be re-elected their prime minister, Netanyahu, desperately seeking support from the hardliners, promised that if elected he would never agree to a two state solution. Minutes after the votes were tallied a victorious Netanyahu told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell that he was supportive of a two state solution if conditions improve.

To say that the White House is pissed off by Netanyahu’s politically motivated flip flopping would be a gross understatement. Relations between the White House and the Israeli government could be called “strained.” The personal relationship between President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu is toxic. They can barely stand each other. So it comes as no surprise that the White House announced
that given Mr. Netanyahu’s remarks it would be re-evaluating the entire Middle East peace process.

“Steps that the United States has taken at the United Nations had been predicated on the idea that a two state solution is the best outcome, “said spokesman Josh Earnest. “Now our ally in these talks is no longer committed to that solution. That means we need to re-evaluate our position in this matter, and that is what we will do moving forward.

As expected, right wing conservatives here at home came out in unfettered support of the Israeli Prime Minister. Even more moderate conservatives questioned the White House response: “Look I totally understand that the White House has every reason to be pissed off at Netanyahu,” said highly respected conservative morning show host Joe Scarborough. “ But what do they have to gain by taking this very public stance. Wouldn’t it be better to express their anger off the record behind closed doors? After all this is our closest most important ally in the region.”

This makes my teeth hurt.

The Republican led United States Congress makes the unprecedented decision to invite the Israeli Prime Minister to address a joint session of the United States Congress, the world’s most powerful body, for the sole purpose of publically criticizing United States' President. Then 47 United States Senators write an open letter to the leadership of Iran, a nation they refer to as our “greatest enemy,” for the sole purpose of undermining the credibility and authority of the United States’ President. Then these same Republicans criticize the White House for daring to publically object to the self- serving political tactics of Israel’s leader. Better, they say, to air such disagreements quietly behind closed doors. Really!

Prime Minister Netanyahu has proven throughout his career that he will do or say anything that is in his own best interests. He tapped into the Republicans’ unabashed distain for President Obama to further his own political ambition and he used the United States Congress as a political prop to further his election chances. He disavowed a long standing agreement with our country to court the hardliners that he desperately needed to win re-election; only to reaffirm his previous agreement with the US once his re-election was safely won. Netanyahu and his government have lied to us, spied on us and undermined our policies. These are the reasons that many Washington insiders call him a liar. Yet the Republicans continue to curry favor with him...even to the extent of diminishing the president.

As I watched Netanyahu over these past few days I was reminded of the Republican candidates in the recent presidential races; engaging in all manner of inflammatory hyperbole to win the party’s nomination only to shift to the more pragmatic middle in hopes of winning the general. Crazy talk may play well with the wacko birds who inhabit the base but it typically gets you in trouble with those who have a brain. I guess that is why conservatives flock to the Israeli prime minister. They use the same playbook.

There is no doubt that Israel is our most important ally in the region. Netanyahu seems to be taking that relationship for granted. Not a wise move. Israel needs us far more than we need them.

Poking the bear may have brought the prime minister a short term victory back home…but it may have cost him and his country in the long run.

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