Benjamin Netanyahu gave his speech and all the predictions that he is not Winston Churchill have so far proven to be true but it was a sober speech, a speech influenced by Israeli electoral politics, a speech that did well not to just represent the Israeli position but to represent the position of the majority of Gulf States, Egypt and the Levant.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi to his friends and Bibi to his enemies came over in seeming controversy, he was invited by the speaker of the house, which is entirely the Speaker’s right to do, but it was a break of protocol and tradition. The presidential narrative is the Israeli Prime Minister is a destructive right wing elephant in a diplomatic china shop culpable for worsening the “strained relations between the President and the Prime Minister” by coming. Yet the President has said nothing of Boehner, the man who supposedly committed to sin of breaking protocol. One of our closest allies is supposed to turn down an invitation by one of the three branches of government to talk about an issue of critical importance and the speaker of the house, the man who invited him seems to have invited almost no presidential ire and Obama – Boehner relations are more strained than Obama – Bibi relations. The only difference between the two beyond Boehner actually breaking protocol is that Benjamin Netanyahu is an easier target and by attacking him rather than Boehner he creates the opportunity to minimize the impact Netanyahu’s speech has had, our President also has a chance to look like a bully which is probably a rare opportunity for such a thin man.
The White House narrative is that Obama is personally insulted by the break of protocol, when it comes the Israeli Prime Minister feelings count for a lot and our President sadly feels very vulnerable when criticized by Netanyahu. However, this isn’t new, recently the President of Turkey allowed a teenage boy to be arrested for insulting the President. Presidents are apparently vain people with paper-thin skin that need protection. While it may be impossible to measure how much sleep either leader of a powerful nation has lost, the risk to our security by having an overtired and cranky commander in chief is scary and obvious.
At the beginning of this “invite-gate” scandal, the president has let it be known he feels affronted by Netanyahu, some democrats have decided not to attend the speech and of course the White House rightly decided to not meet Netanyahu but wave of revulsion, the criticism laid at Netanyahu’s door rather than Boehner’s door makes the Obama and the administration look petty. So far the administrations narrative has remained unquestioned but it does not hold up to scrutiny. Netanyahu could not responsibly turn down speaking to Congress about Iran, the deal does look like it seeks to create a second North Korea but the world would be lucky if it only got a second North Korea because Iran is expanding its influence with terrorism and proxy wars meanwhile while our President’s feeling are “hurt” but all that “pain” is meant to minimize Israeli and Middle Eastern concerns and that should concern everyone. What could Bibi possibly say that is so dangerous we must not listen to it? This Invitation-drama is only an invitation to distraction and while the administration has now proclaimed that Bibi has said “nothing new” as though that were a credible reply. My wife complains I leave my clothes on the floor, I would love to reply to her, “You’ve said nothing new and fling my trousers over my left shoulder for good luck” as a legitimate reply but sleeping on the couch hurts my back.
Like our last president, this president has become single minded in pursuit of a policy regarding a rogue Persian Gulf Nation and he will say anything to get his policy passed over the concerns of allies and rivals, we Americans should not be stupid twice. We need to tell our leaders, not so fast with agreement on Iran, at least not until the President appears before either a joint session of congress or the Knesset to defend his policies. I bet Tzipni Livni would be happy to offer such an invitation. If we didn't think a single minded president who ignored his allies was good during the George W. Bush administration then people need to pressure that administration to accept real advice from our allies.