Netanyahu Comes to America as a Conqueror
by Ray Hanania
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu came to Washington DC this week not with his tail between his legs or hat in hand, but rather with a new sense of power.
Netanyahu’s government embarrassed President Barack Obama only two weeks earlier when Israel announced the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements. That happened the same day that Vice President Joseph Biden arrived in Israel to kick-start the long stalled peace process between Palestinians and Israelis.
Although the Biden embarrassment was portrayed as an Israeli “slap in the face” of Biden and the Obama administration, it was not a slap that brought harm to Netanyahu.
The fact is, Netanyahu, intentionally or not, found himself with greater power not only in the Middle East but in the United States where Obama’s political troubles (and the failure of the Arab World to back him) have undermined his hoped-for-plans to bring about a just peace in the Middle East.
Most Israelis do not like Obama as much as they supported past American presidents, according to polls and columns there. The anti-Obama rhetoric in Israel has increased after Obama delivered an unprecedented speech to the “Muslim” (not “Arab”) World after taking office.
Obama then sought to level the playing field by not only scolding the Palestinians for their failure to restrain terrorism and violence, but by also scolded Israel for its continued policy of expanding Israeli settlements. The settlements are a clear violation of international law and a policy that contradicts American foreign policies, even though those contradictions have been ignored by most American administrations. But no American administration has the courage to stand up to Israel and force it to abide by international law.
The settlement controversy played in to Netanyahu’s political fortunes against Obama, because it came at a time when Obama is under siege in the United States.
Although Obama sent a clear message of displeasure with Netanyahu and Israel’s outrageous insistence on expanding illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank, that message was quickly muted by the overwhelmingly friendly and cheery reception Netanyahu received from the U.S. Congress. Both Republicans who hate Obama and Democrats who recognize they can’t afford another controversy after the health care reform vote welcome Netanyahu with a warm embrace despite Obama’s cold shoulder.
Obama is under political siege in the United States. The President this week barely managed to win approval for a much-scaled down health insurance reform package. Obama barely got enough votes to pass it from a Congress controlled by his own Democratic Party.
Although he touted the passage of the reform measure, the fact is that many Democrats who voted for it fear being ousted in November.
The last thing they need is to have Israel’s powerful American lobbying organization, AIPAC, target them for joining in what many Israelis perceive as Obama’s “bash Israel” campaign.
Obama is not bashing Israel of course, but since when has reality had anything to do with how events in the Middle East are portrayed by the heavily pro-Israel American news media which is dominated by pro-Israel columnists?
Just seeking to be “fair” and “balanced” is enough to justify Israeli assertions that Obama is anti-Israel and, in the words of not a few Israeli and pro-Israel columnists, also “anti-Semitic.” Some went as far as to assert Obama “hates” Israel.
Netanyahu will leave Washington D.C. stronger and with more power. Obama, however, is in desperate need of support, especially from the Arab World. But he can’t get that support.
Despite going out on the limb to support the Palestinian cause, the Arab World and American Arabs have led the criticism of Obama.
Obama is not doing enough to confront Israel, his Arab critics insist. They want Obama not only to chastise Israel for its refusal to freeze illegal Israeli settlements, but they also want him to suspend foreign aid. That is not going to happen. Israel is the largest recipient of American foreign aid for a reason.
Israel’s foreign aid was potentially vulnerable in the recent battle over health care insurance reform. U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, who is Israel’s honorary official representative in the Senate, was outspoken against supporting government funded health care for Americans. But, he has no problem with Israelis receiving government-funded healthcare, paid in a large part by the billions in dollars given to Israel every year.
Proponents of healthcare reform could have responded to Republican assertions that Americans are “not their brother’s keepers” and should not have to pay more to help Americans in need. One might have asked the question, should Americans continue to pay more to help Israel?
The Arab World and the American Arabs have always been their worst enemies. They have no concept of strategic communications nor the value the professional public relations. American politicians who support justice in the Middle East quickly learn the impotence of the Arab community and Arab World. They get no support for supporting the Palestinian cause. Just a lot of emotional lip-service.
American Arabs are deeply divided among themselves. The word “Arab” is an antiquated term that is fast losing any real meaning. The Arab World isn’t the “Arab World” at all any more. It is fast becoming the “Islamic World” which is more non-Arab than Arab.
Although the Islamic World claims to champion the rights of Palestinians, there is no substantive meaning behind that fight because Palestine is a secular battle in the larger fight for Islamic domination of the world.
Right now, Muslim extremists are battling to take over the Arab World, unseating a litany of dictators and monarchs. Once that is done, they will move to Europe and eventually to the entire World. It’s a script that is laid out in their religiously driven rhetoric and nothing can stop them, except peace.
The secular Arabs are afraid to challenge the religious extremists who are better able to leverage the failure to achieve a Palestinian State and who share much in common with the secular Arab activists who hate Israel.
With no friends to stand at his side, President Obama had no choice but to escort Netanyahu into a private meeting where the Israeli Prime Minister could lay out the reality at Obama’s feet.
At least by keeping the meeting in private, it prevented Obama from being embarrassed even more.
Netanyahu will return to Israel having achieved two major goals. He derailed the peace process, thanks to the Arabs who can’t agree on anything. And, he re-engineered the role Israel plays in American domestic policies, strengthening Israel’s chips and undermining those who might seek to force Israel to be “just” and “fair.”
The better tact for the Palestinians would have been to call Israel’s bluff and agree to enter peace talks unconditionally, without a settlement freeze. But by refusing to negotiate and demanding the unachievable - forcing Israel to back down on settlement expansion - the Palestinians and Arabs helped paint their one true ally into a corner where Obama may now be stuck for many years to come.
But then again, the extremists in the Arab World never wanted peace to resume. They still believe that they will achieve victory through only one means, increased tensions and continued conflict.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning syndicated columnist and the host of a morning radio show in Chicago and Dearborn. He can be reached at http://www.RadioChicagoland.com).