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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The US, Israel and Bibi's speech

Everyone who sees my Facebook feed knows my political views very well, I am very opinionated and very outspoken.  But I seldom discuss politics on the blog.  However, given that the March NaBloPoMo theme is news, today I would like to address  a major news event: Benjamin Netanyahu's speech before the US Congress.

The  issue I'm addressing today speaks to me not only on a political level, but involves my identity.

I am an American.  I am a Jew.  And until now, those two parts of me have always been compatible. 

My Hebrew school education started in 1968, shortly after the Six Day War and the reunification of Jerusalem.  My bat mitzvah was in 1973, a few months before the Yom Kippur War.  Growing up, the message I heard was that American Jews must be Zionists, we must support  Israel,  we must defend Israel from attack, that the entire Arab world wanted to "push the Jews into the sea."  This was before Jimmy Carter brought Begin and Sadat together, before Bill Clinton tried to broker peace with Arafat and Barak.

As an adult I remain an ardent Zionist, though one with her eyes opened to the problems in the Middle East.

Israel's safety and security should never have become a political football.  The American Jewish community is being torn apart by partisan politics.

I place the blame squarely on John Boehner, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Dermer.

Boehner, of course, is the not-so-loyal opposition to President Obama.    His moves and countermoves are to be expected.

I always tried to stay away from internal Israeli politics. Which candidate became Prime Minister was none of my concern, I would support Israel and whoever was the designated leader of the government.

But I found myself really disliking Bibi in 2012.   Bibi, as you may know, was born in Israel, but spent a good deal of his youth in the United States. He holds degrees from MIT and Harvard.  At one point, he and Mitt Romney were coworkers, colleagues.  In a way, it was no surprise that he went on the Sunday morning talk shows and actively campaigned for his dear friend.    But this created two problems:  (1) it soured his relationship with Obama, who easily won reelection, and (2) the vast majority of the American Jewish community identifies with the Democrats, not the Republicans.

Ron Dermer, Israel's ambassador to the United States, was born and raised here. His early political career, before he made Aliyah and became an Israeli citizen, included an extensive employment history with Newt Gingrich's organization.

Are you starting to see the problem here?

So, about Iran...The President wants to negotiate with Iran regarding its nuclear program, the House Republicans want to impose sanctions on Iran to prevent it from gaining any sort of nuclear ability.    And the Prime Minister of Israel sees a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to his own country.

So Boehner invited Bibi to speak to a joint session of Congress, without involving the White House. 

The battle was therefore lost before Netanyahu even took the floor.  Democrats, even those who would otherwise have supported the sanctions bill, have to react to the disrespect shown to the President. Some will boycott the speech, others will listen politely but will not support the legislation..  How much better would it have been, how much more receptive would Congress have been, if protocols were followed?

And the American Jewish community is so divided on this issue.  Should he speak, or should he have stayed home? 

And Obama will remain in office until January 2017, so Bibi will have a real headache...


Oh, yeah, there's an election in Israel on March 17.  And the voters  back home (or, rather, some of them) see Bibi's speech to Congress as grandstanding, as a political ploy to defeat the opposition.  I mean, he's about to fly to Washington, and he takes time for a photo op at the Wall?

I hope the leaders of Congress who wanted this speech are happy to be used as tools in the internal politics of Israel.

It no longer matters if Bibi is right or wrong, he cannot accomplish anything meaningful with this speech.

Who knows?  Maybe he will be reelected, maybe not.    Maybe in a few weeks we'll be talking about Israeli Prime Minister Herzog...

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