March 22, 2015 § Leave a comment
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.
March 9, 2015 § 3 Comments
Forty-seven Republican Party Senators dispatched a letter to the Nation of Iran warning them that any agreement between Iran and the United States negotiated by the President of the United States would be worthless and revocable in two years when a new president is elected. Iran responded to the letter with a classic example of politely, but firmly, labeling the Senators’ letter for what it is: Ignorant meddling into serious business being conducted by competent responsible agents of six nations.
Jay Bookman, columnist and blogger for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, has commented on this episode in a blog post. It expresses my reaction better than I could. Here is link to his blog post. I urge all readers of this blog to read it.
Oh, by the way, I assume that it is superfluous for me to satisfy your curiosity: Both Texas Senators signed the letter. Texas has replaced Mississippi as a haven for jackasses and launching pad for every stupid governmental policy idea floating around. We have not one, but three Texas Coo-Coo Birds readying themselves for campaigns to become President of the United States. Stay tuned.
Here is a link: Jay Bookman
February 28, 2015 § 1 Comment
Today’s Haaretz newspaper included three reactions to Netanuahu’s current effort to court Israeli political support by attacking President Obama and advocating the abortion of peace negotiations with Iran. The effects of the controversy are presented as viewed in Israel and as viewed by Jews living in America.
I offer this commentary for consideration because I am convinced that the ultimate outcome of our effort to avoid another “preventive” war in the Middle East could involve a process leading to a long bitter and costly war – costly not just in dollars but also in lives. If decisions about this grave matter are submitted and determined, not by statesmen and knowledgeable negotiators, but by politicians focused only on electoral advantage, it will amount to a failure of democracy to prove itself capable of managing serious issues based on rationality and common sense.
WWI was the result of unwitting decisions hastily made with small understanding of their terrible consequences. In our time of nuclear weapons, we cannot afford a repeat of that foolishness.
February 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
When I posted the Dr. Strangelove piece I thought Bibi Netanyahu was merely trying to thwart the efforts of the United States to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Iran. And by the way, I forgot to mention that five other nations are participating in that effort. I now have new information, thanks to my friend Sissy Farenthold, that Dr. Strangelove is probably not content to sabotage the peace process. He has already arranged for his next move if, despite his efforts, peace talks are successful.
Here is link to an article that describes his Plan B: Bombs .
According to this article, he has obtained the Saudis’ permission for his bombers to cross Saudi Arabia on their way to bomb nuclear sites in Iran. He apparently believes that, even if his bombs are not effective to destroy Iran’s nuclear capability, the lawless damage would make it politically impossible for Iran to continue to negotiate for peace.
It took me awhile to appreciate the true evil of this plan. Are we supposed to defend it? If it evokes a response that threatens Israel are we obligated to protect Israel? Just how far should we continue our sponsorship of this guy and his “to hell with international law” political friends in Israel? Is our “special relationship” asymmetric; Israel does as it pleases and our judgment and policies are ignored, opposed and publicly denounced? Mutual defense pacts are commonplace in international relations. Does our “special relationship” delegate to Israel the authority to decide whether we abandon peace efforts and wage war against Iran?
I’ll tell you what I would do if I were Iran: After demanding International denunciation of Israel’s unprovoked attack I would calmly proceed with the peace process, coupled with a demand that, as evidence of good faith, western powers agree to assist in repairing the damage done by Israel’s bombs. I would seize the episode as a means of decoupling or at least weakening the “special relationship” between the United States and Israel. As a Shiite Muslim nation, I would see this as an opportunity to gain allies against the threat of ISIS and potential threats from Sunni nations like Saudi Arabia. The relinquishment of any ambition to have nuclear weapons would be a small price to pay for reducing the military prowess and influence of Israel. I would also, of course, appeal to the United Nations to brand Israel’s bombing as a breach of international law.
I know this suggestion is unrealistic: Expecting a proud nation to react to an attack by continuing efforts to make peace. I believe, however, if it were possible, it would gain Iran valuable prestige and allies. It would also highlight Israel as a reckless rogue nation. I think the United States and other secular democracies would be quick to support Iran’s choice of peace instead of war. Iran’s economy would benefit from establishing itself as a safe and stable place for investment. An Iranian leader with the courage and talent to accomplish the result I suggest would become a strong candidate for the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize.
Both the U.S. and Iran would benefit from establishing a new and cooperative relationship. We supported the Shah who was deposed by a revolution. The aftermath of those events included the hostage controversy during the Carter administration. Iran is one of four nations labeled sources of terrorism, subject to severe economic sanctions. As we face conflict with ISIS and its allies, Iran, a Shiite Muslim nation, is a natural ally. If we could establish a new, tolerant relationship with Iran it would reduce the chances that it would pose any military threat to Israel.
I hope the article I’ve cited is not correct. If it is, I believe it describes tactics that will do incalculable harm to Israel. My respect and admiration for Israel is old and deep, reinforced by my love for my Jewish grandchildren. I regard these developments with the same sadness I feel when I see my own government wrecked by right wing zealots. [Given their present position on immigration, I think of them as white wing zealots.]
I post this so my readers can share my fears and, perhaps, with their comments, convince me that I am being too pessimistic.
February 26, 2015 § 3 Comments
The House Call
John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, without consulting with the President and heedless of its potentially disruptive effect on current negotiations with Iran concerning its nuclear program, has invited Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister facing a serious election contest within a few weeks, to address a joint session of Congress, an opportunity rarely offered to a foreign leader and never before offered as a brazen act of hostility toward the President of the United States.
Mr. Netanyahu, also without consulting the President, accepted the invitation and has declared his intention to deliver a speech deliberately designed to undermine and disapprove the President’s efforts to reach a peaceful negotiated agreement that would ease fears that Iran is developing nuclear weapons.
Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 cult classic anti-war comedy was entitled Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. The movie was about a demented person’s delusional effort to start a nuclear war.
Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, is determined to force a war between the United States and Iran. That war, given the volatile state of world politics and the current number of overlapping and interlocking conflicts, could, if there is a miscalculation by any of the combatants or their allies, result in a nuclear tragedy.
The Middle East, where most of the probable participants are located, is a place where suicide bombing is a weapon of choice. The phenomenon usually referred to as “mutually assured destruction” has so far been an effective deterrent to nuclear war. In most Middle Eastern countries it would not serve because the religious zealots who live there eagerly await the Apocalypse and have little apprehension about dying for reasons believed required by their religious beliefs.
For the past few years, the United States has been trying to dissuade the government of Iran from developing nuclear weapons. That effort has employed progressively serious economic sanctions coupled with both formal and informal negotiations.
In recent months, following Iran’s election of new and less bellicose government leadership, a team of negotiators led by our State Department has engaged in serious negotiations with representatives of Iran’s government concerning this issue. Those negotiations have now reached a crucial stage. According to published reports, there is some hope that Iran may, at last, agree to enforceable measures that will, at least, slow and postpone development of its nuclear capability and provide hope for verifiable steps insuring that it will not develop nuclear weapons.
A vital factor affecting the negotiations is the opinion of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Here is a link to an informative and somewhat hopeful article from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists concerning this issue: Khamenei Like all negotiations, success depends on shared confidence that proposals are made in good faith; that if accepted, they would be adhered to.
The failure of this effort at peaceful settlement of these issues can, and probably will, have grave consequences for Iran, the United States and Israel. If Iran insists on a course that could lead to a nuclear attack on Israel, the United States will be forced into yet another Middle East war. As stated above, such a war would be dangerous and its outcome and long term consequences impossible to predict. The recent emergence of ISIS and various other similar military groups adds to the complexity and risks that will confront the United States if it becomes enmeshed in such a war.
Enter Dr. Strangelove
The United States confronts these dangerous possibilities because it is committed to safeguard the safety of Israel. Instead of supporting efforts to forestall a possible nuclear holocaust that could obliterate Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has joined factions of his supporters in opposing all efforts intended to achieve a peaceful settlement with Iran.
Some articles related to such efforts have equated them with Neville Chamberlain’s negotiations with the Nazis in the 1930’s, and equated Chamberlain with President Obama. History has labeled Chamberlain naive and branded him with his speech upon returning from Munich which featured the often quoted phrase, “Peace For Our Time”. [Usually misquoted as “Peace in our Time”]
According to Netanyahu, Iran cannot be trusted to abide by any agreement and, hence, negotiations are merely a ploy to buy time to build nuclear weapons to destroy Israel. The inevitable logic of this argument is that war between the United States and Iran is the only sensible solution. All indications that peaceful negotiations are succeeding evoke more intense and raucous efforts to sabotage them from Netanyahu. The sabotage tactics have now culminated in this unprecedented effort by a foreign elected leader openly to engage in political conflict with the elected leader of another sovereign nation.
Our Form of Government
Lest it be forgotten, we are governed by a Constitution. Article II describes the duties of the President. It states, in part, “He shall have power, with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties . . . .” This authority has been construed to give the President the authority to negotiate with other countries. The Supreme Court, in a 1936 decision sustaining the right of the President to impose an embargo on the export of arms, wrote, “The President is the sole organ of the federal government in the field of international relations – a power which does not require as a basis for its exercise an act of Congress, but which, of course like every other governmental power, must be exercised in subordination to the applicable provision of the Constitution.” United States v. Curtis-Wright Export Corporation.
It is very plain that neither the House of Representatives nor Benjamin Netanyahu, as an elected leader of the State of Israel, should intrude like bulls in a china closet into the fragile and important negotiations between the United States and the nation of Iran. It is time for our government to send Netanyahu home with a message: Our President will respect your proper concern for the safety of your country, but we will not countenance your effort to dictate the policies we design in the interest of our country. Our obligation to Israel is to protect it from harm but the tactics and policies related to that matter must be and will be made and designed by us, based on our judgment and our system of government. Their design will not be and has not been delegated to you or your government.
There are two Jewish lobbyist groups in the United States. The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, usually abbreviated AIPAC, generally supports and promotes Netanyahu’s policies. The other, Jewish Voice for Peace, operates as a grass roots political organization. Its membership is not limited to Jews. It supports, advises and furnishes information to elected officials generally identified as liberals. Its primary aim is to promote peace between Israel and Palestine based on security and fairness. Here is a link to an article written by a spokesperson for that organization concerning the issues discussed here: JVP