The Netanyahu Paradox: How Obama is Using Bibi's Arrogance to Box in the Right and Promote Peace

That moment when you learn the hard way not to mess with Barack Obama.

That moment when you learn the hard way not to mess with Barack Obama.

TPV doesn't aim to be a "tomorrow's news today" kind of a site. Instead, our goal is to help you understand the news in depth. That in-depth exploration, however, does become an ahead-of-time understanding of news events  sometimes.

The breaking this morning of the story of Israeli espionage against US officials in the confidential Iran negotiations is such a moment.

While it is in and of itself newsworthy that Netanyahu's government crossed a line by disseminating it to members of Congress and while it is particularly troubling that those members of Congress participated in espionage against our own country by not immediately notifying the White House about Netanyahu's attempt to circumvent the diplomatic process, the one element of the story that seems to be falling by the wayside is something we highlighted three weeks ago: Barack Obama is closer than any leader has ever been to striking an international pact to peacefully put nuclear weapons out of Iran's reach.

Three weeks ago, I had to rely on the dumbness of the GOP's move and Netanyahu's repeated appeals to "world powers" in his speech in front of the US Congress - World powers, I pointed out then, with whom President Obama had earned enormous capital by proving that his hard work on behalf of peace wasn't mere lip service and by already having the disarmament of a middle eastern rogue power (Syria) under his belt.

The Wall Street Journal, breaking the spying story, describes that desperation:

Mr. Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer early this year saw a rapidly closing window to increase pressure on Mr. Obama before a key deadline at the end of March, Israeli officials said.

They decided to do so, WSJ goes on to say, by channeling to members of Congress confidential information the Israelis had learned in an attempt to derail the President's plans. Little did they know that US counterintelligence had in short order discovered the Israeli spying however, and Netanyahu's belligerence received blowback when the espionage turned off pro-Israel Democrats Netanyahu had counted on to scuttle the President's plans.

But it didn't stop at ticking off Democratic members. Netanyahu's petulance and the following fallout not only backfired, it has angered officials who aren't necessarily political appointees, and thus whose times of service aren't always linked to the length of their presidents' administrations.

“People feel personally sold out,” a senior administration official said. “That’s where the Israelis really better be careful because a lot of these people will not only be around for this administration but possibly the next one as well.”

On the other end, Netanyahu's screw-ups - including an election-eve assertion he has now been forced to backpedal on - has enabled the White House to make a point too many American administrations have been afraid to due to fear of the We-gotta-be-more-pro-Israel-than-Israel lobby. This weekend, in a speech to J Street, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization, the President's Chief of Staff Dennis McDonough made the case for and end to occupation (which Netanyahu said he would expand) and the establishment of a free Palestinian state as not only the best option for Israel's long term security but the only way for Israel to remain both Jewish and democratic.

McDonough's speech, though making the usual rounds among the right wing echo chamber, has done what right wing dogmatism hasn't allowed in decades: established the United States as both pro-Israel and pro-peace. McDonough was even backed up at J Street by the George Bush Sr's Secretary of State Jim Baker (before that Reagan's Secretary of Treasury), who lit into Netanyahu in his own speech.

Frankly, Netanyahu has done so much to draw attention to himself that even some conservatives are finding it difficult to defend his rhetoric and actions. By making himself the cause celeb, Netanyahu has put the American right wing in the uncomfortable position of having to reject the longstanding, bipartisan goal of a two-state solution and defending expanded settlements and now, spying on the United States, all at the behest of a foreigner.

The Right's open contempt for peace and Netanyahu's open defiance of the United States may well have had a big part in creating the atmosphere in which the White House Chief of Staff can articulate in clearest of terms that indefinite occupation and settlement does not have the backing of the United States, and that Benjamin Netanyahu is part of the problem against a peaceful resolution in the Middle East, without allowing the press to instantly brand this longstanding American position as anti-Israel. It is better understood than ever that the President is merely dropping support of a petulant, arrogant foreign leader, not his proven commitment to the security of the state of Israel.

Let's recount. Netanyahu's attempt to derail the Iran negotiations - from spying and secretly talking to members of Congress to the belligerent electioneering on the floor of the US Congress - not only failed but backfired, reiterating to our allies as well as to Iran that the window to make a deal is now. Bibi's rhetoric following that has now resulted in what is a well-earned rebuke from the White House and loss of support on the Right. Not for Israel, but for Bibi.

Netanyahu may have won an election, but he seems to have lost a tremendous amount of ground on the global stage and within the US.

Barack Obama has generally taken a simple but deadly effective approach to neutralizing Right wing belligerence. Hand them enough rope, wait for them to screw up, then move in at lightening speed. He said it a long time ago, even before he was president, that he would work with anyone, but if you come at him with an attack posture, he will knock you out.

Now he has used that tactic with the precision of a neurosurgeon against Bibi's follies, and at the same time, tied and hung Netanyahu like a sinking rock around the American far Right's neck, all the while continuing to advance his global leadership. The GOP is back in a box: if they now back Netanyahu, they are committing sedition by backing a foreign leader who not only spied on the US but passed that info to unauthorized individuals, and if they don't, their base is going to call them a n____ lover. Welcome to the Netanyahu Paradox.

Well done, Mr. President.

NOTE: Please please please understand that this article's comments section is not an invitation to jump into the "Israel good, Palestine bad" or vice versa kind of a discussion. Rather, it is meant to be an introspection on American leadership and moving the peace process (both between Israel and Palestine and the current negotiations with Iran), and exactly who's getting in the way (Netanyahu, the American Right wing). As such, please keep your comments on that topic. I know passions run high on both sides, but since that cat has already been skinned every way possible, let's be forward looking to the solutions.



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