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Musa A. Keilani: Israel and Netanyahu

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IN AN  op-ed piece on the New Yorker magazine's website, editor David Remnick has sought to expose the real face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the dangers he poses to the United States.

Remnick describes Netanyahu as "high-handed,” “arrogant,” and a “dangerous neo-con” whose aim is “to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage.”

 “Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the president of the United States,” as well as insert himself into the US presidential election by allying himself with Mitt Romney against President Barack Obama.

Prompted by Netanyahu's attack against Obama, Israeli opposition leader Shaul Mofaz asked the prime minister during a Knesset session last week: “Whom are you trying to replace? The administration in Washington or that in Tehran?”

Mofaz was referring to Netanyahu's arrogant comment the previous day.

“The world tells Israel ‘Wait, there’s still time,’ ” Netanyahu told reporters.  “And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.”

Remnick notes: "No one had any illusions that Netanyahu was addressing anyone but Obama, with whom he has a tortured relationship, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had earlier said, 'We are not setting deadlines,' but, rather, pushing forward on economic sanctions and diplomacy."

Remnick observes that Netanyahu is trying to bully Obama into attacking Iran. Despite the advice of dozens of advisors, as well as the majority of the Israeli public who are opposed to attacking Iran, Netanyahu is determine to start a regional war, and drag the US along with him, Remnick says.

Calling Netanyahu's handling of his relationship with the president of the United States “outrageous,” Remnick writes that Netanyahu has not changed his “high-handed” and “arrogant” ways, which he used against Bill Clinton, leaving that president “bewildered and bemused, wondering who, in their relationship, was the leader of a superpower.”

In the same way, Netanyahu, “in the guise of Churchillian prescience,” is cleverly trying to manipulate the Iran issue for the benefit of his old friend, Romney, against Obama.

Remnick has been a strong critic of Netanyahu. Last March,  he wrote that on his last visit to the US, Netanyahu showed “imperious disdain” for Obama. Because of Netanyahu, he wrote, Israel was "turning anti-democratic, fanatic, xenophobic, racist, and warlike."

Remnick writes: "On a trip I took to Israel a few weeks ago for the New Yorker, the political philosopher Avishai Margalit told me that Netanyahu was a kind of 'mythomaniac,' a politician utterly absorbed and guided by his sense of heroic mission, and dismissive of the opinions and analyses of even his closest advisers. This goes for his innate distrust of any and all Palestinians, as well as for the vast range of military and intelligence experts, both inside and outside the Israeli government, who are constantly telling him that a unilateral attack on Iranian nuclear facilities will end in political, diplomatic, and military disaster."

"Netanyahu’s opponents include the current leaders of the Israeli military and the major intelligence branches and their most recent predecessors, to say nothing of a decisive majority of the Israeli population. They fear consequences as dire as regional war and an Iranian regime unified and strengthened by a sense of common purpose."

From our observers point, we could see how true Remnick is about Netanyahu's behaviour who takes for granted that the US has to support Israel to the hilt but also tries to force down this approach down the throat of Obama and other American politicians and officials.

The Israeli prime minister acts as if he is one of the "great leaders" — if not the "greatest"  of the world and the "saviour" of the Jewish people.

World leaders, including Obama himself and former French president Nicolai Sarkozy, have spoken — although not intended for the public's ear — of how difficult they find it to deal with Netanyahu.

Remnick is not the only American to unleash such criticism of Netanyahu and Israel in general, given the unreserved diplomatic, military, economic and political support that the Jewish state demands of the US. However, Remnick and others like him could also be doing their own cause a disservice by crticising Netanyahu.

True that many Israelis on the right do not like Netanyahu and his policies, but in general he is seen by his people as a  "victim of bad press"   when it comes to foreign criticism of their prime minister.

The very "fortress" mentality — Jews confronting the rest of a "hostile"  world — prompts the people of Israel to rally behind their political leaders at the time of crises. And there is a crisis going on over Iran and Netanyahu gains only strength at home by external criticism. A majority of the Israeli people will jump to the Netanyahu side of the fence if the outside world portrays him as a hard-liner bent upon imposing Israeli will on the rest of the world.

That is an internal Israeli political affair. However, opinion pieces similar to those of respected writers like Remnick should be eye-openers to Americans of the lop-sided and illogical "strategic" relationship their country has with Israel.

A sign that such writings do have an effect was a blog comment to Remnick's piece.

"Bibi has morphed into the biggest bull in the china shop," the commentator wrote. "All the broken china might come down hard on him and his pariah state if the bull handlers don't corral him. Our elected officials should have only one allegiance and that is to the United States and the constitution. The American people will soon weed out and label as traitor any politician that puts another countries interest above that of the people of these United States. How could Bibi dare to try to influence our democratic process, our foreign interests and our international standing. Enough is enough. America has paid through thick and thin with life and treasure to sustain this Israeli regime that doesn't even have the decency to remain silent and constrained during our solemn democratic election period. The old record of crying wolf is cracked and broken and the people of this country have caught on. Beware."

 

Dr. Musa A. Keilani,  a former jordanian ambassador, is the chief editor of Al Urdun weekly in Amman

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