The Day of Bibi’s Victory
On March 18, 2015, Benjamin Netanyahu was declared the winner, by a significant margin, of the Israeli election. During the last days of the campaign, he made two dramatic appeals to Israel’s right wing political forces: He declared that there would be no Palestinian state as long as he was prime minister. He warned that “foreign money” was financing the transportation of busloads of Arab Israeli citizens to the polls to vote against him.
The first appeal amounted to a repudiation of his earlier public commitment to peace with Palestine based on a “two state” end to Israel’s military occupation of Palestine. The second appeal was generally perceived as a racist attack on twenty percent of Israel’s citizens.
The Day After Bibi’s Victory
On March 19, 2015, Netanyahu was interviewed by MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. He denied having rejected peace based on a “two state” arrangement with Palestine. He claimed that, when he, without consulting with the White House, addressed Congress and deliberately tried to sabotage efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, he did not mean to “disrespect” the President of the United States. He denied having made a racist attack on Israeli Arab citizens.
He couldn’t deny having said what he said. Instead he insisted that he had been “misunderstood”.
Two Days After Bibi’s Victory
On March 20, 2015, Netanyahu was interviewed by NPR’s Steve Inskeep. He again tried to claim that his “no two state” promise was “misunderstood”. This time, Mr. Inskeep was ready. Here is a partial transcript of his telephone conversation with Bibi: “SI: You said in this interview you were asked, “Are you saying if you are prime minister, a Palestinian state will not be created.” Your answer was, “Indeed.” Nentanyahu, responded that what he meant was that “circumstances would have to change” before a two-state solution would be acceptable.
When Mr. Inskeep asked Bibi about his pre-election day warning about Arabs coming to vote, he responded with the hackneyed response of bigots: His version of “Some of my best friends are _________”.
Here is an excerpt from the transcript:
“SI: I want to be clear, Prime Minister. I was in Israel during the election campaign. It is a democracy; it was a very free and open debate. I didn’t read your remark as suppressing the Arab vote. I read it as a warning that you were afraid that Arabs were going to flood the polls. Are you in some way suspicious of Arabs who are citizens of your country?
N: No. In fact, I had a meeting 10 days ago with Arab Likud supporters, and we got quite a few votes, by the way, from them. I have invested billions, billions, in my last two governments in trying to close the gaps, social gaps, infrastructure, education, in the Arab communities in Israel. I’m proud that I did that, I’m going to do that again, I’m committed to that. I’m the prime minister of all of Israel’s citizens, Jews and Arabs, alike.”
Here is a link to the entire interview: Inskeep
This is the guy who claims that negotiations with Iran are impossible because you can’t trust them to keep their word. His words have a “sell by” time period of about 72 hours.
Bibi’s Win – Israel’s Loss
Ari Shavit is an Israeli writer whom I regard as trustworthy. His allegiance to Israel is unquestionable, but so is his commitment to the truth. His book, My Promised Land, is a well written but evenhanded account of recent Israeli history. I have written about it. See The Broken Promised Land. So, when I wanted a reaction to last week’s election, I sought him out. He has written two interesting reactions.
The day after the election, he labeled Netanyahu’s victory a disaster. Here is a link: Disaster
Next day he wrote a second article.
Here are links: Is Israel Losing Its soul?
Here is link to page 2 of that story: Page 2
This week’s New York Times Magazine has an interesting article assessing the damage done by the alinement of Netanyahu’s Israeli politics with the Republican Party’s opposition to the Obama administration. Here is a link to that article.
A Second Comment
This last article features quotes from Elliott Abrams. You remember him. He and Ollie North helped Reagan support the Contras in Nicaragua and then lied to Congress about it. Abrams pled guilty to a misdemeanor in a deal to avoid going to the pen for having committed felonies. Then he was granted a “Christmas Time pardon” by Daddy Bush. George W. Bush appointed him as a senior adviser for “global democracy strategy”. As one writer put it, he will be “the architect for how Bush will fix the world”.
In the above-cited article concerning the future of Netanyahu and the Democratic Party, the writer quoted Ron Dermer, appointed by Netanyahu as Israeli Ambassador to the United States, expressing unconcern about younger, college age, voters opposing Israel’s right wing policies. Here is an excerpt:
“Like Abrams, Dermer wasn’t worried about liberal Jews. He argued that ‘a lot of the fissures’ in the American Jewish community would seal up the moment Israel came under attack. But when I asked him about the broader liberal antipathy toward Israel on college campuses and among Democratic voters, he said: ‘Israel is a symptom of a problem, but it’s not actually the problem that’s on campuses. It’s not an anti-Israel thing. It’s a problem of moral relativism. And we are low hanging fruit.’” (emphasis added)
I find it interesting that Dermer speaks disparagingly of “moral relativism”. I wonder if he has talked with his friend Abrams about that. Did Abrams think it was ok to lie under oath? Did he hesitate about illegally supporting and protecting military and paramilitary forces who were committing atrocities in Central America? In fact, I wonder how Dermer feels about a political candidate who makes public promises to gain votes and then, a day or two later, repudiates them.
Moral relativism is a serious subject. It opposite, moral absolutism, in my opinion, leads more often than not to oppression and abuse. Based on their credentials, I doubt either Dermer or Abrams are reliable sources of philosophical wisdom on that subject.
The GOP/Israel’s Dear Leader Sheldon Adelson
Sheldon Adelson, the Las Vegas billionaire, has bankrolled both Israeli and U.S. right wing politicians. His main requirement for handing over large checks is blind allegiance to Israel. I mention Adelson because Israel has successfully countered all efforts to negotiate peace with other nations by demanding, as a precondition for any negotiation an agreement that Israel’s right to exist as a nation is acknowledged.
This has proved to be a powerful defense for every action taken by Israel toward the Palestinians. It is in the first sentence of almost every explanation of Israel’s unwillingness to negotiate with Iran.
This has a long history. Here is a link to a discussion of several episodes in this history.
There are some obvious flaws in the logic of this argument. For example, why does it matter if Iran cherishes a wish that Israel would disappear, If, since that plainly is not going to happen, Iran is, nevertheless, willing to agree not to develop nuclear weapons? If Palestine is willing to negotiate a boundary with Israel and is willing to agree not to engage in a war with Israel, what does it matter that a majority of Israeli’s hate Palestinians and a majority of Palestinians hate Israelis? Granted that is sad and not an optimal situation, but isn’t it preferable to an endless war without boundaries?
Fareed Zakaria’s article in the Washington Post casts this whole argument in a different light. Here is his interpretation of Khomanie’s anti-Israel rhetoric. Khamenei proposes a referendum to decide Israel’s fate and use Israel’s commitment to democracy to justify his proposal. Here is a link: Zakaria
Which brings me to Mr. Adelson. Here is what one of the most revered supporters of Israel and its GOP idolizers had to say about Iran at a public meeting in 2013. Adelson
By contrast, I have found an address by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to the Non-aligned Summit in Teheran, published September 2, 2012. Address
This is a tedious item because it is in either Persian or Farsi. I couldn’t find an English translation. It has English sub-titles, so you can tell what he’s saying. Unfortunately, because you are dependent on the sub-titles, skipping around through the speech is difficult. I listened to the whole speech. Late in the speech, he states plainly that Iran will not develop nuclear weapons because, his words: “It would be a sin” He remonstrates with the U.S. for aligning itself with Israel and refers to Israel as an “usurper” because it occupies Palestine. There is no “great Satan” and no “wipe Israel off the face of the map” language.
I cite this item, not to express admiration for Iran. Its support of terrorist groups is well known. Its suppression of minority groups is reprehensible. But, I must say that, compared to Adelson’s speech, the Ayatollah sounds more like a man with whom one could reason than Adelson, who sounds like a billionaire thug right out of The Godfather.
If any of you are intrepid enough to have read this far, I’m surprised. This post is a way for me to catalog the information I have been able to compile about an event I regard as very important. I fear we are watching some reckless people making decisions that could lead to WWIII. Our media technology and modern communication technology have enabled us to be emotionally stirred by images and rhetoric coming at a pace too fast for reasoned analysis. Fear is being used by demagogues to gain popular support without enough thought given to the possible consequences.
I trust Barack Obama and John Kerry, but I fear they may win the logical and rational solution too late to forestall the war apparently sought by their irresponsible detractors, here, in Iran and in Israel.