Only a Jew of Uri Avnery’s credentials could get away with comparing the US Congress to the German Reichstag under the Nazis! Perhaps he’s being tongue-in-cheek? Even so, the comparison is chilling.
In truth, if you watch the video of Netanyahu’s speech with the sound muted and just follow the interaction between audience and speaker it is quite scary! As Avnery points out, politicians in Israel’s Knesset would never fawn over their Prime Minister the way US members of Congress do! Of course this makes the speech in Congress all the more valuable for Netanyahu’s target audience – the voters back home. Even so, the tens of thousands of Israelis who subsequently rallied in opposition to Netanyahu and his anti-Palestinian militancy suggests that the strategy didn’t work.
One thing that hadn’t occurred to me until I read Avnery’s commentary was that the vacuous nature of Netanyahu’s speech may have been due to drastic last-minute revisions in the prepared text! Perhaps he realised that the leaked Mossad cable – revealing Israel’s official intelligence assessment that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon – could not be ignored? It is hard to work up a head of steam in fear-mongering when everybody knows that what you’re saying has been flatly contradicted by your own intelligence community!
I hope and pray that these are Netanyahu’s final days and that someone with a heart for peace will take the helm in Israel soon, before it is all too late!
by Uri Avnery
SUDDENLY IT reminded me of something.
I was watching The Speech by Binyamin Netanyahu before the Congress of the United States. Row upon row of men in suits (and the occasional woman), jumping up and down, up and down, applauding wildly, shouting approval.
It was the shouting that did it. Where had I heard that before?
And then it came back to me. It was another parliament in the mid-1930s. The Leader was speaking. Rows upon rows of Reichstag members were listening raptly. Every few minutes they jumped up and shouted their approval.
Of course, the Congress of the United States of America is no Reichstag. Members wear dark suits, not brown shirts. They do not shout “Heil” but something unintelligible. Yet the sound of the shouting had the same effect. Rather shocking.
But then I returned to the present. The sight was not frightening, but ridiculous. Here were the members of the most powerful parliament in the world behaving like a bunch of nincompoops.
Nothing like this could have happened in the Knesset. I do not have a very high opinion of our parliament, despite having been a member, but compared to this assembly, the Knesset is the fulfillment of Plato’s dream.
ABBA EBAN once compared a speech by Menachem Begin to a French souffle cake: a lot of air and very little dough.
The same could be said about The Speech.
What did it contain? The Holocaust, of course, with that moral impostor, Elie Wiesel, sitting in the gallery right next to the beaming Sarah’le, who visibly relished her husband’s triumph. (A few days before, she had shouted at the wife of a mayor in Israel: “Your man does not reach the ankles of my man!”)
The Speech mentioned the Book of Esther, about the salvation of the Persian Jews from the evil Persian minister Haman, who intended to wipe them out. No one knows how this dubious composition came to be included in the Bible. God is not mentioned in it, it has nothing to do with the Holy Land, and Esther herself is more of a prostitute than a heroine. The book ends with the mass murder committed by the Jews against the Persians.
The Speech, like all speeches by Netanyahu, contained much about the suffering of the Jews throughout the ages, and the intentions of the evil Iranians, the New Nazis, to annihilate us. But this will not happen, because this time we have Binyamin Netanyahu to protect us. And the US Republicans, of course.
It was a good speech. One cannot make a bad speech when hundreds of admirers hang on every word and applaud every second. But it will not make an anthology of the world’s Greatest Speeches.
Netanyahu considers himself a second Churchill. And indeed, Churchill was the only foreign leader before Netanyahu to speak to both houses of Congress a third time. But Churchill came to cement his alliance with the President of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who played a big part in the British war effort, while Netanyahu has come to spit in the face of the present president.
WHAT DID the speech not contain?
Not a word about Palestine and the Palestinians. Not a word about peace, the two-state solution, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Jerusalem. Not a word about apartheid, the occupation, the settlements. Not a word about Israel’s own nuclear capabilities.
Not a word, of course, about the idea of a nuclear-weapon–free region, with mutual inspection.
Indeed, there was no concrete proposal at all. After denouncing the bad deal in the making, and hinting that Barack Obama and John Kerry are dupes and idiots, he offered no alternative.
Why? I assume that the original text of The Speech contained a lot. Devastating new sanctions against Iran. A demand for the total demolition of all Iranian nuclear installations. And in the inevitable end: a US-Israeli military attack.
All this was left out. He was warned by the Obama people in no uncertain terms that disclosure of details of the negotiations would be considered as a betrayal of confidence. He was warned by his Republican hosts that the American public was in no mood to hear about yet another war.
What was left? A dreary recounting of the well-known facts about the negotiations. It was the only tedious part of the speech. For minutes no one jumped up, nobody shouted approval. Elie Wiesel was shown sleeping. The most important person in the hall, Sheldon Adelson, the owner of the Congress republicans and of Netanyahu, was not shown at all. But he was there, keeping close watch on his servants.
BY THE way, whatever happened to Netanyahu’s war?
Remember when the Israel Defense Forces were about to bomb Iran to smithereens? When the US military might was about to “take out” all Iranian nuclear installations?
Readers of this column might also remember that years ago I assured them that there would be no war. No ifs, no buts. No half-open back door for a retreat. I asserted that there would be no war, period.
Much later, all Israeli former military and intelligence chiefs spoke out against the war. The army Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, who finished his term this week, has disclosed that no draft operation order for attacking Iran’s nuclear capabilities was ever drawn up.
Why? Because such an operation could lead to a world-wide catastrophe. Iran would immediately close the Strait of Hormuz, just a few dozen miles wide, through which some 35% of the world’s sea-borne oil must pass. It would mean an immediate world-wide economic breakdown.
To open the Strait and keep it open, a large part of Iran would have to be occupied in a land war, boots on the ground. Even Republicans shiver at the thought.
Israeli military capabilities fall far short of such an adventure. And, of course, Israel cannot dream of starting a war without express American consent.
That is reality. Not speechifying. Even American senators are capable of seeing the difference.
THE CENTERPIECE of The Speech was the demonization of Iran. Iran is evil incarnate. It leaders are subhuman monsters. All over the world, Iranian terrorists are at work planning monstrous outrages. They are building intercontinental ballistic missiles to destroy the US. Immediately after obtaining nuclear warheads – now or in ten years – they will annihilate Israel.
In reality, Israel’s second-strike capability, based on the submarines supplied by Germany, would annihilate Iran within minutes. One of the most ancient civilizations in world history would come to an abrupt end. The ayatollahs would have to been clinically insane to do such a thing.
Netanyahu pretends to believe they are. Yet for years now, Israel has been conducting an amiable arbitration with the Iranian government about the Eilat-Ashkelon oil pipeline across Israel built by an Iranian-Israeli consortium. Before the Islamic revolution, Iran was Israel’s stoutest ally in the region. Well after the revolution, Israel supplied Iran with arms in order to fight against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the famous Irangate affair). And if one goes back to Esther and her sexual effort to save the Jews, why not mention Cyrus the Great, who allowed the Judean captives to return to Jerusalem?
Judging by its behavior, the present Iranian leadership has lost some of its initial religious fervor. It is behaving (not always speaking) in a very rational way, conducting tough negotiations as one would expect from Persians, aware of their immense cultural heritage, even more ancient than Judaism. Netanyahu is right in saying that one should not trust them with closed eyes, but his demonization is ridiculous.
Within the wider context, Israel and Iran are already indirect allies. For both, the Islamic State (ISIS) is the mortal enemy. To my mind, ISIS is far more dangerous to Israel, in the long run, than Iran. I imagine that for Tehran, ISIS is a far more dangerous enemy than Israel.
(The only memorable sentence in The Speech was “the enemy of my enemy is my enemy”.)
If the worst comes to the worst, Iran will have its bomb in the end. So what?
I may be an arrogant Israeli, but I refuse to be afraid. I live a mile from the Israeli army high command in the center of Tel Aviv, and in a nuclear exchange I would evaporate. Yet I feel quite safe.
The United States has been exposed for decades (and still is) to thousands of Russian nuclear bombs, which could eradicate millions within minutes. They feel safe under the umbrella of the “balance of terror”. Between us and Iran, in the worst situation, the same balance would come into effect.
WHAT IS Netanyahu’s alternative to Obama’s policy? As Obama was quick to point out, he offered none.
The best possible deal will be struck. The danger will be postponed for ten years or more. And, as Chaim Weizmann once said: “The future will come and take care of the future.”
Within these ten years, many things will happen. Regimes will change, enmities will turn into alliances and vice versa. Anything is possible.
Even – God and the Israeli voters willing – peace between Israel and Palestine, which would take the sting out of Israeli-Muslim relations.
For more wisdom from Uri Avnery visit the Gush-Shalom website.
Secretary Kerry’s determination to get the Palestinian-Israeli issues finally resolved seems to be making Netanyahu increasingly nervous. President Obama has sent General Martin Dempsey’s to Israel because there are concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. General Dempsey is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a post once held by Colin Powell. What will Dempsey and Bibi be talking about today?
US Senator John McCain has called General Dempsey’s warning against attack on Syria ‘disingenuous’. (AIPAC, CUFI, Lindsey Graham and the NEOCONs stand in agreement with Senator McCain.) The general public’s attention is solidly fixated on the sexual shenanigans of three American Jews (Anthony Weiner, Eliot Spitzer and Bob Filner) whose stories are much more titillating than Dempsey’s. Nevertheless, please read the following news report carefully. The highlights are mine.
Top US general visiting Israel amid Iran, Syria worries
Martin Dempsey to meet Israeli leaders from Sunday evening; Netanyahu warns that new Iranian president won’t change policy
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey will be the guest of Israel’s chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Benny Gantz, and will also meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon.
Dempsey’s visit, first reported on by Israeli daily Yedioth Aharonoth, comes amid concerns that Israel might be planning a strike on Iran’s nuclear program. On Sunday, Iran was inaugurating new president Hasan Rouhani, touted by some as a relative moderate who may attempt to open a window to the West. Netanyahu, however, told his cabinet Sunday morning that the new leader would continue the policies of his hardline predecessor.
With at least some Hezbollah forces tied down in the fighting in Syria, and the organization experiencing political blowback in Lebanon for its support of the Assad regime, the US may be concerned that Israeli leaders believe the cost of an Iran strike — especially in terms of rocket strikes on Israeli cities from across the border — has dropped significantly, according to the report.
In July, Netanyahu told NBC’s “Face the Nation” that Iran was getting “closer and closer to the bomb,” and that “they’re edging up to the red line.”
Netanyahu said, “They haven’t crossed it yet. They’re also building faster centrifuges that would enable them to jump the line, so to speak, at a much faster rate — that is, within a few weeks.”
“I won’t wait until it’s too late,” Netanyahu vowed at the time.
A report by the US-based Institute for Science and International Security last week said that Iran could break out to a nuclear bomb by mid-2014 if it went ahead with a plan to install thousands of new centrifuges. Tehran maintains its program is peaceful.
Last August, Dempsey demonstrated the gap between the Israeli and American sense of urgency over the Iranian nuclear program when he told a press conference in London that an Israeli strike would “clearly delay but probably not destroy Iran’s nuclear program. I don’t want to be complicit if they [Israel] choose to do it.”
He said that intelligence was inconclusive when it came to Iran’s intentions. An American-led international sanctions regime “could be undone if [Iran] was attacked prematurely,” he added.
Just hours ahead of Dempsey’s visit, Netanyahu upped his rhetoric against Iran’s nuclear program, citing Rouhani’s anti-Israel oratory as proof of his hawkish views.
“Two days ago, the president of Iran said that ‘Israel is a wound in the Muslim body.’ The president of Iran might have changed, but the regime’s intentions did not,” Netanyahu told the cabinet. “Iran intends to develop nuclear capabilities and nuclear weapons in order to annihilate the State of Israel, and that’s a danger not only for us or the Middle East, but for the whole world. We are all responsible for preventing it.”
Netanyahu’s statement appeared to be reiterating his previously withdrawn criticism of an inaccurate translation of a Friday speech by Rouhani.
According to Iran’s semi-official ISNA and Mehr news agencies and Western wire services, Rouhani had said, “The Zionist regime has been a wound on the body of the Islamic world for years and the wound should be removed.”
Netanyahu’s original response said that Rouhani had “revealed his true face sooner than expected.” It added, “This statement should awaken the world from the illusion some have taken to entertaining since the elections in Iran. The president was replaced but the goal of the regime remained obtaining nuclear weapons to threaten Israel, the Middle East and the safety of the world. A country which threatens to destroy Israel must not have weapons of mass destruction.”
But other sources quoted Rouhani differently, and ISNA retracted its original report. “In any case, in our region, a sore has been sitting on the body of the Islamic world for many years, in the shadow of the occupation of the Holy Land of Palestine and the dear Quds. This day is in fact a reminder of the fact that Muslim people will not forgot their historic right and will continue to stand against aggression and tyranny,” Rouhani said, according to a New York Times translation.
Late Friday, Netanyahu’s office removed tweets criticizing Rouhani’s statement, and told the BBC that the prime minister had been responding to “a Reuters report with an erroneous translation.”
Netanyahu has consistently warned that the new Iranian president was merely putting on a “more hospitable face,” and that he has no power or intention to change the Iranian regime’s nuclear policy. Last month, he called Rouhani a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
Last Sunday, Netanyahu charged that Iran was going ahead with its nuclear program: “A month has passed since the elections in Iran, and Iran is going full steam ahead on developing nuclear weapons. Now, more than ever, given Iran’s progress, it’s crucial to strengthen economic sanctions against Iran and to provide a credible military option.”
It is extraordinary that while so much talk goes on about ‘recognising Israel’s right to exist’ (whatever that means) there has been very little talk in Israel up till now about ‘recognising Palestine’s right to exist’. Danny Ayalon should be congratulated for introducing some symmetry into the discussion.
Israeli official: Recognize Palestine
JERUSALEM, Feb. 9 (UPI) — Outgoing Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said Saturday Israel should recognize Palestine’s new U.N. status if Palestine renounces terrorism.
Ayalon said Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu should offer to recognize Palestine’s statehood at the United Nations in exchange for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas saying — in Arabic — he recognizes Israel’s right to exist while renouncing terrorism.
The remarks came as Netanyahu seeks to form a new government after his conservative Likud party lost seats in the Knesset.
Netanyahu, if he is to form a new government, will likely have to make concessions to moderates seeking to restart the peace process.
The Jerusalem Post said a three-way summit featuring Netanyahu, Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama — and possibly including King Abdullah II of Jordan — is possible this year, depending on the outcome of a meeting planned this spring between Obama and Netanyahu.
Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to make his first trip to Israel next week.
Father Roy writes: Political “experts” and the results of a recent Ha’aretz poll lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu will be re-elected. Bibi is generally regarded as more suitable than the others to lead Israel into the future. Attitudes can change, of course. Regimes can change, as well. Laura Friedman writes: No More Excuses for Bibi. I’ve done some highlighting in the article pasted below. Peace, Roy
Poll: Netanyahu beats all comers
Tzipi Livni is best positioned against the prime minister in the race for the premiership.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has no serious challenger in the next election, political experts said after he launched the campaign for the 19th Knesset on Tuesday. A poll carried out for Haaretz on Wednesday appears to confirm this.
The poll, conducted by Dialog under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, shows that Netanyahu easily defeats all his possible rivals from the center-left bloc. As far as the public is concerned, Netanyahu is deemed much more suitable for post of prime minister than any of his potential rivals.
At the same time, the Likud-right wing-ultra-Orthodox bloc has increased its strength to 68 Knesset seats, while the center-left bloc has gone down to 52, compared to the blocs’ respective strength in the outgoing Knesset and the previous poll.
The candidate with the highest support after Netanyahu is Tzipi Livni, who has retired from political life. However, Livni, who is considering a return to political life, fails to muster more than half of the support attributed to Netanyahu (57 percent – 28 percent ).
Ironically, Livni, who failed as Kadima’s leader in the opposition, lost to Shaul Mofaz in the party primaries and was ousted from the political arena by her party members, is the leading opposition candidate.
Kadima members may regret voting for Mofaz as their party leader in March. No wonder many of them are hoping that she or Ehud Olmert will return. Or even both of them.
Support for the remaining potential candidates – former prime minister Ehud Olmert, who hasn’t decided yet whether he’s throwing his hat in the ring, Atzmaut leader Ehud Barak, Kadima chairman Shaul Mofaz and Labor chairwoman Shelly Yacimovich – is not impressive.
The poll results lead to the conclusion that Netanyahu will be the next prime minister.
The poll, conducted by Dialog, under the supervision of Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University, shows that support for Netanyahu is even stronger than it was in the previous poll some two weeks ago. Asked about their satisfaction with Netanyahu’s performance as prime minister, 45 percent of the interviewees were satisfied and 45 percent were dissatisfied, marking a 15 percent improvement from the last poll, in which only 38 were satisfied compared to 53 who were not.
The improvement in Netanayhu’s position likely results from his presentation at the UN and perhaps from his announcement of early elections.
While the Likud receives a few more Knesset seats and Labor a few less, Yair Lapid is considerably stronger, according to this poll. Ehud Barak’s Atzmaut Party does not obtain the minimum required votes to enter the Knesset.
Future polls are expected to examine the repercussions of a party led by Olmert on the political map. However, in view of the right wing bloc’s strength, it is hard to imagine Olmert, with or without Livni, attracting enough cross-over votes from the right.
If Olmert joins the campaign, he will no doubt affect the power balance in the center-left bloc dramatically. Yacimovich will weaken, Lapid will weaken even more. Mofaz will probably have to renounce his place as Kadima leader. It is not clear, however, whether this will change the outcome for Netanyahu.
This is encouraging news. I despise the business of politics – all the manipulation and the half-truths. It is encouraging if people across America are finally recognizing what Netanyahu is up to – trying to push the world into a war that will be in nobody’s interests.
By Lisa Goldman
|Published September 13, 2012
Mainstream American media and pro-Israel pols are turning against Netanyahu
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu seems to have miscalculated with his latest attempt to bait President Obama and manipulate the results of the U.S. elections results. On Monday, Netanyahu leveled what the New York Times described as “unusually harsh public comments about Israel’s most important ally,” regarding the Obama administration’s policy on Iran. Speaking in English one day after Secretary of State Clinton said the United States was “not setting deadlines” regarding military action against Iran, Netanyahu said:
The world tells Israel ‘wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?’ Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel.
As Noam Sheizaf reports, this speech was followed by a claim from the prime minister’s office that Obama had rejected a request for a meeting during Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the U.N., where he is scheduled to address the General Assembly. The White House denied the snub, Obama called Netanyahu – reportedly at 3 a.m. – to have a one-hour chat and thus both sides pulled back from the brink of a public rupture, just two months before the presidential elections.
But then something interesting happened. Yesterday, a prominent U.S. senator and two important journalists made highly critical remarks about Netanyahu. The blunt wording is almost unprecedented in mainstream American discourse.
Senator Barbara Boxer published a letter to Netanyahu on her website as a press release, titled “Boxer Expresses Disappointment Over Israeli Prime Minister’s Remarks.” In the opening paragraph she describes herself as “one of Israel’s staunchest supporters in Congress” (which she is), and then characterizes Netanyahu’s remarks as “utterly contrary to the extraordinary United States-Israel alliance, evidenced by President Obama’s record and the record of Congress.” After offering a detailed list of the extraordinary measures the president has taken to ensure Israel’s security, particularly the enacting of the U.S.-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act, the senator writes:
In light of this, I am stunned by the remarks that you made this week regarding U.S. support for Israel. Are you suggesting that the United States is not Israel’s closest ally and does not stand by Israel? Are you saying that Israel, under President Obama, has not received more in annual security assistance from the United States than at any time in its history, including for the Iron Dome Missile Defense System?
David Remnick, editor of the New Yorker, also had some harsh words for Netanyahu in a piece, Neocon Gambits (“Have Netanyahu’s Attacks on Obama Gone too Far?), published yesterday on the magazine’s web site. He pulls no punches in his opening paragraph:
It is hard to overestimate the risks that Benjamin Netanyahu poses to the future of his own country. As Prime Minister, he has done more than any other political figure to embolden and elevate the reactionary forces in Israel, to eliminate the dwindling possibility of a just settlement with the Palestinians, and to isolate his country on the world diplomatic stage. Now Netanyahu seems determined, more than ever, to alienate the President of the United States and, as an ally of Mitt Romney’s campaign, to make himself a factor in the 2012 election—one no less pivotal than the most super Super PAC.
But then we come to the main point:
In Netanyahu’s view, Obama, despite instituting crippling economic sanctions, despite carrying out a series of covert operations, despite diplomatic pressure, despite vows that an Iranian bomb is impermissible—despite all that—is weak and deluded. The Israeli Prime Minister has made no secret of his distrust, even though Israeli politicians acknowledge that intelligence and defense coöperation has never been stronger. His trusted American allies are not the elected President but, rather, his friends on the American right, the politicians, business people, and lobbyists, who are never willing to disagree with Israel at all.
Remnick seems genuinely outraged. Netanyahu’s “performance,” he writes,” is in the same neocon voice as the one adopted by the Romney campaign and in its opportunistic reaction to the attacks on the U.S. diplomatic outposts in Cairo and Benghazi, which left our Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, and three other consular employees dead.”
And then Joe Klein, another prominent U.S journalist, said during an MSNBC interview that Netanyahu’s remarks were “brazen” and “disgusting.”
I don’t think I’ve ever, in the 40 years I’ve been doing this, have heard of another of an American ally trying to push us into war as blatantly and trying to influence an American election as blatantly as Bibi Netanyahu and the Likud party in Israel is doing right now. I think it’s absolutely outrageous and disgusting. It’s not a way that friends treat each other. And it is cynical and it is brazen. And by the way, a little bit of history here: In December of 2006, George W. Bush went over to the Pentagon, met with the joint chiefs of staff and asked them, “What do you think about military action in Iran?” They were unanimously opposed to it. And as far as I know, the United States military, the leaders of the United States military, are unanimously opposed to it to this day. This is a fool’s errand. It would be a ridiculous war with absolutely no good coming of it.
Mainstream America is not interested in going to war with Iran, it seems. Nor does it take kindly to a foreign leader meddling so obviously in domestic politics. Perhaps the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens was the final straw, but I think the remarks made by Boxer, Klein and Remnick were a long time coming. The fact that they are all Jewish gives the lie to Sheldon Adelson’s claim that he represents the mainstream Jewish community’s point of view – as does a quick perusal of the names of the biggest donors to the Obama campaign (the bundlers).
Meanwhile, the abysmal relationship between Obama and Netanyahu is Politico’s top story today.
“There is a lack of rapport between these two men — they don’t like each other very much. Plus, there are serious differences between our interests and Israel’s own security interests,” said former State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, who was present for several of Obama’s nine face-to-face meetings with Netanyahu.