For weeks, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to accept the Republican Speaker of the House’s invitation to address the Congress has looked arrogant and counter-productive. Democrats who rejected the appease-Iran policy suddenly rallied around the insulted Democratic president. Some Democrats vowed to boycott Bibi’s speech – or suddenly discovered they are booked whatever day Netanyahu decides to appear. Meanwhile, most American Jews resent yet another insult lobbed by the insolent, clumsy, doctrinaire Israeli leader toward their president.

But what if we’ve been snookered? Increasingly, it seems that Bibi’s Big Blunder was instead a Big White House Lie – a despicable attempt to embarrass the Israeli prime minister, sabotage American-Israeli relations, and mislead the American people, all supporting a failing Iran policy and reflecting a growing hostility to Israel’s duly-elected democratic government.


The story unraveled with an easily-overlooked correction in the New York Times. Below yet another article about Democrats fuming at Bibi’s bumbling, readers can find this: 
Correction: January 30, 2015 An earlier version of this article misstated when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel accepted Speaker John A. Boehner’s invitation to address Congress. He accepted after the administration had been informed of the invitation, not before.

If the administration was informed before Israel accepted, did it express its disapproval? Why did it pretend to be surprised? Meanwhile, the Weekly Standard printed John Boehner’s letter, which began: “Dear Mr. Prime Minister: It is my honor, on behalf of the bipartisan leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, to extend to you an invitation to appear before and address a joint meeting of Congress….”


Typically, in our polarized media universe, conservative and pro-Israel outlets have emphasized this correction, but it’s been downplayed elsewhere. Mainstream journalists owe it to their readers to investigate and explain what happened.  Rather than pillorying Bibi and the Republicans exclusively, a fairer assessment of this debacle probably will blame the White House too.


The prospects of a nuclear-powered Iran in an increasingly unstable and ideologically-charged Middle East today make squabbles between allies particularly worrisome. Everyone has behaved badly on this one; mature leaders should broker an elegant way out. Where are the grownups to resolve these issues?


The White House should explain when it knew what it knew and what it said or did not say. The America media is all inflamed about the NBC anchor Brian Williams’s embellished tale about imaginary wartime dangers. That’s celebrity idiocy; the Obama Administration’s lies that alienated key supporters from an important ally are dangerous. 


These White House sins fit into a broader pattern of telegraphing contempt for Israel’s current leadership and choosing to overreact, as it did with Joe Biden’s fury over the 1600 Jerusalem housing starts in 2010.


Barack Obama is not anti-Israel; reserve that label for Israel’s real enemies. Still, more than suffering from Bibi Fatigue, Obama’s animus runs deeper. His impatience and short-temper regarding the Jewish state contrast with the great patience he displays regarding Iran and Islamist ideologues. His riff about the Crusades, the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow, noting that “people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ,” confirms fears that his approach to the Middle East is ideological. Failing to note the reforms in Christian theology and America, falsely comparing violence done in the name of fundamentalist Islamism today and medieval Christianity a thousand years ago, reveals a disturbing need to create false equivalences between Western and Eastern ideologies.


Obama’s Blame Israel First tendencies resonate with his Blame-America-and-the-West-
Equally worldview. Being unduly harsh regarding First World missteps while indulging Third World sins reflects a post-Sixties moral confusion that stems from an overactive Western guilt complex. Obama’s moral compass needs recalibrating. Most Americans want a president who is tougher on adversaries than allies, who gives Israel the benefit of the doubt while treating Iranian mullahs and Islamist terrorists with the anger their fanaticism deserves.

It is unclear whether Israel fell into a Republican trap or an Obama White House trap, but such incompetence is inexcusable regardless. Bibi Netanyahu and his Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer fancy themselves experts on American politics. They should know that relationships between Republicans and Democrats have become highly charged – with politicians often choosing party over principle. Netanyahu and Dermer have failed in their fundamental mission to keep American support for Israel bipartisan, a source of healing that allows Republicans and Democrats to work together on at least one issue rather than turning Israel into yet another Washington wedge issue.


Netanyahu must get over himself, as my students say, and realize that one more Bibi harangue opposing the Iranian nuclear threat is not going to stop Iran from going nuclear -- except now it seems to be recruiting Democrats to support Obama’s negotiations.  Ron Dermer should resign – or be recalled – for allowing such a mess.  The Ambassador is supposed to prevent such foul-ups not orchestrate them. All the initial fears people had about Dermer as too enmeshed with Republicans have been confirmed.


Before more Democrats insult the prime minister and abandon Israel, Netanyahu should conjure an excuse to avoid speaking to Congress.  No speech he could deliver would help at this point, unless a serious backlash against the White House manipulations grows.


A better leader better advised would have avoided the trap; the smart move now is to retreat elegantly. Perhaps as a true tikun, healing, Netanyahu could make a doubly statesmanlike move – let him arrange the electoral debate among leading candidates the Israeli public deserves. Schedule a showdown among the five most popular party leaders for early March, then use that constructive democratic exercise as the excuse to retreat from a mess that only seems to worsen with each news cycle.



Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Visiting Professor at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya. The author of eight books on US history, his latest,  
Moynihan's Moment: America's Fight Against Zionism as Racism, won the 2014 J. I. Segal Book Award for Best Jewish Non-Fiction Book.

Relevant to your professional network? Please share on Linkedin


Be the first to know - Join our Facebook page.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this blog article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position or viewpoint of The Jerusalem Post. Blog authors are NOT employees, freelance or salaried, of The Jerusalem Post.

Think others should know about this? Please share