Benjamin Netanyahu is singlehandedly hurting a relationship that has resulted in over $100 billion in military aid to Israel since 1962.  The Prime Minister is hurting a relationship with a country that constantly defends Israel at the UN; resulting in over 30 U.S. vetoes of resolutions critical to Israel. Because of Netanyahu, some are wondering if the U.S. should continually give $3.1 billion in annual aid and professors like Harvard’s Steven Strauss have written about ending this perpetual assistance. Sadly, the Prime Minister’s supporters in Israel and abroad don’t seem moved by the magnitude of what could be lost if Netanyahu’s feud with Obama “gets even worse.”

After all, anyone critical of Netanyahu is either a liberal, or a leftist, or anti-Israel, correct?

Well, even those whose job it was to protect Israel from the threats trumpeted by Netanyahu feel that the Prime Minister has overstepped the boundaries of rationality.

According to The Jerusalem Post recently, “Former Mossad chief slams Netanyahu for insistence that Iran recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Efraim Halevy also predicted a “dramatic” improvement in Israeli relations with the U.S. if Netanyahu were to be defeated in the latest elections.  Another former Mossad chief, Meir Dagan, called Netanyahu’s speech to Congress “bull---t” and views the Prime Minister’s policies as dangerous to Israel’s future. A third former Mossad chief, Tamir Pardo, stated that a nuclear Iran did not post an existential threat to Israel; a viewpoint directly at odds with the hysteria (fueled by Netanyahu’s political ideology) surrounding Obama’s nuclear deal.

When three former Mossad chiefs are forced to speak out, an Israeli Prime Minister should tone down his paranoid rhetoric, not increase the tempo of his political exploits. Say what you will about Bibi’s critics, but former Mossad chiefs aren’t “leftist” and they know quite a bit about Israeli security threats. Their sober assessment of Netanyahu’s P. T. Barnum inspired diplomacy (regarding Israel’s U.S. relationship) is just cause to reassess the Prime Minister’s behavior; not champion his constant criticism of Obama’s nuclear deal.

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The Economist writes that “RARELY have relations between an American president and an Israeli prime minister sunk so low.” The New Yorker published an article titled A Bad Day In American-Israeli Relations. Senator Dianne Feinstein recently stated she wished that Netanyahu “would contain himself” and I echoed the California Senator’s sentiment in a recent Congress Blog piece. Tzipi Livni has warned that Netanyahu is leading Israel into “crisis and diplomatic isolation.” Like Livni, Yair Lapid has lamented over the state of relations between the White House and Israel, stating, “This damage will take a long time to mend.” Everyone from former Mossad chiefs, U.S. Senators, Israeli politicians, and journalist have expressed dismay about the decline in a relationship that is essential to Israel’s future.

But what about the Republicans in Congress, like Tom Cotton and John Boehner, who love Netanyahu? What about the standing ovation he received during his speech to Congress, or the fact that polls indicate the U.S.-Israel relationship is still strong? The reality is that the GOP is simply using Netanyahu to undermine Obama's credibility under the guise of genuine concern for Israeli security. Half of the 47 Senators who wrote the Iran Letter would jettison supporting Israel in a heartbeat if it meant winning an election or securing their Senate seat in the future.

The truth is that American public opinion fluctuates rapidly, and can go from love to indifference (or worse) in the blink of an eye. It wasn’t that long ago when George H. W. Bush threatened to withhold billions from Israel. According a 1991 Los Angeles Times article titled Israel, Ignoring Bush, Presses for Loan Guarantees, it wasn’t Obama who threatened to deny the Jewish State billions in loans:

A bitter political fight took shape today in Washington as Israel and some of its Congressional supporters ignored President Bush's appeal to delay a request for $10 billion in loan guarantees to help settle Soviet Jews and made clear that they would push for quick Congressional approval…

"It is in the best interest of the peace process and of peace itself that consideration of this absorption aid question for Israel be deferred for simply 120 days," Mr. Bush told reporters. "And I think the American people will strongly support me in this. I'm going to fight for it because I think this is what the American people want, and I'm going to do absolutely everything I can to back those members of the United States Congress who are forward-looking in their desire to see peace."

How quickly we forget that it wasn’t Obama, but President George H. W. Bush who stated, “It is in the best interest of the peace process and of peace itself” to withhold $10 billion from Israel.

Why don’t Bibi’s supporters remember Bush’s threat in 1991?

They forget for the same reason that few remember Richard Nixon’s thoughts about Jews. According to a New York Times article titled, In Tapes, Nixon rails about Jews and Blacks, another Republican president had interesting thoughts about Jews and Israel:

A moment later, Nixon returned to Jews: “The Jews are just a very aggressive and abrasive and obnoxious personality.”

… An indication of Nixon’s complex relationship with Jews came the afternoon Golda Meir, the Israeli prime minister, came to visit on March 1, 1973. The tapes capture Meir offering warm and effusive thanks to Nixon for the way he had treated her and Israel. But moments after she left, Nixon and Mr. Kissinger were brutally dismissive in response to requests that the United States press the Soviet Union to permit Jews to emigrate and escape persecution there.

“The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy,” Mr. Kissinger said. “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.”

“I know,” Nixon responded. “We can’t blow up the world because of it.” 

No, it wasn’t Obama who made these statements, if was a different Republican president from Bush. Netanyahu and others forget that not long ago, Nixon’s National Security advisor said, “And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern.”

Sadly, few conservatives and supporters of Netanyahu recall a time when Prime Ministers didn’t pretend they were Congressmen, or the era when Levi Eshkol desperately needed Phantom jets from LBJ. Prime Minister Netanyahu should tone down the rhetoric, antagonism, and political grandstanding; the world he’s creating won’t sustain such antics in the future. American support is infinitely more important to Israel than preventing a nuclear Iran, primarily because of military support, UN vetoes, and an irreplaceable strategic relationship.

If, heaven forbid, the U.S. veers away from Israel and takes the approach George H. W. Bush and prior presidents had towards Israel, we can all thank Netanyahu’s political gamesmanship for this unfortunate possibility. 


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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.

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