US President Barack Obama (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
When a fool throws a stone in a well, even 1,000 wise men are unable to get it out – so the saying goes. This is exactly what has been happening since the Ministry of Defense released its shocking statement Friday afternoon.
The statement, yet again, invoked the memory of the Holocaust. It implied that US President Barack Obama is like former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who signed the Munich agreement in 1938 with Adolf Hitler. The agreement divided Czechoslovakia, and is considered the lowest point in the Western appeasement of Nazi Germany.
The statement directly addressed President Obama and his claim that the Israeli military establishment acknowledges that the Iranian nuclear deal is working.
Attempts to clarify who was responsible for the wording have been evaded. Associates of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have hinted that he was not informed of the published text. An assistant communications adviser to Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said that the statement was published by the press office of the Defense Ministry, adding that it was approved by the defense minister.
So it turns out that in the two months or so since taking office, and saying that he would “lengthen his fuse,” Liberman short-circuited. Again. The defense minister’s attempt to change his image and show that he is a responsible leader suffered a severe blow.
And the timing of the statement is particularly unfortunate.
Last week, a delegation of senior security officials arrived in Washington to negotiate a new Memorandum of Understanding between the US and Israel, a decade-long defense package worth an estimated $37 billion.
Leading the delegation to Washington was Yaakov Nagel, acting head of Israel’s National Security Council. The MoU is reportedly close to being finished, with the majority of issues already settled.
Meanwhile, IDF Chief-of-Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot was also in Washington, where he received an unexpected honor from the US military, the Legion of Merit, presented by Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairmen Gen. Joseph Dunford.
The Legion of Merit is the second- highest degree in US military decorations next to the Medal of Honor, and was awarded to Eisenkot for “exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services and achievements.”
But in negotiating the agreement, Israel, and mainly the prime minister, acted foolishly.
More than a year and a half ago, before the nuclear agreement signed by world powers and Iran, the United States wanted to begin discussions with Israel, offering a generous compensation package in order for the Jewish state to maintain its strategic military advantage.
Instead Netanyahu refused, and chose to argue with the Obama administration, demonstrated by the premier’s speech to congress just weeks ahead of the agreement.
This caused unnecessary damage in relations between the two countries, and put Netanyahu on a collision course with the US president.
As a result, Netanyahu’s conduct may have cost severe fiscal damage in the sum of several billion dollars, and ultimately negatively impact the defense industries.
In the end, the MoU will be signed but with fewer advantages than what Israel could have achieved just a few months ago.
Ironically, Netanyahu deserves credit for inflating and raising the historical comparison between Iran and Nazi Germany, as well as between the Munich agreement and the nuclear agreement. Now he is echoed by the minister of defense, at a time when Netanyahu has calmed down his rhetoric and is trying to repair US-Israel relations.
The new eruption obscures reality. Obama told the truth.
Intelligence experts and officials, including the Mossad, admit that the agreement is being preserved verbatim and that is not so bad.
True, as they say, a better agreement could have been achieved, but what has been achieved is the lesser evil. Iran’s nuclear program has been delayed by at least 10 years.
It could be argued what Obama said should not have been said in public. But the Defense Ministry’s comments went beyond a proportional response. Now Israel’s friends must suffer a new slap in the face, while realizing all over again how Israel acts so terribly ungrateful to its biggest and most important ally.