If the prime minister knew all along that he wasn’t going to win the battle in Congress, why would he throw AIPAC and American Jewry into such a divisive fight?
The Israeli prime minister’s proxies and unofficial spokespeople tried their hardest to convince reporters on Wednesday that Benjamin Netanyahu knew all along his chances of blocking the Iran deal in Congress were slim at best. Yet much of the media in Israel is treating the administration’s success in assembling 34 senators to defend a presidential veto as a political defeat for Netanyahu.
“We knew that the agreement would pass but we tried to contain some of its damage,” one of the prime minister’s proxies was quoted as saying in Yedioth Ahronoth. “A majority in the U.S. opposes the deal,” read the front-page headline in Israel Hayom, the free pro-Netanyahu tabloid owned by Sheldon Adelson. Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold delivered a similar message on Army Radio, stating, “we weren’t planning on preventing the deal in the first place.”
Did Netanyahu really know he was fighting a losing battle all along? It’s not clear. Some Israeli diplomatic reporters aired their disagreement on the matter Thursday morning on Twitter. Netanyahu personally briefed all of those reporters before their departure to the U.S. some weeks ago, on their way to meetings with American officials. According to Haaretz’s Barak Ravid, Netanyahu told the Israeli journalists at the time that there was “a drift” in the direction of opposing the agreement – making it sound as if it could actually be killed in Congress. Moav Vardi (Channel 10) and Ilil Shahar, however, left with the impression that Bibi knew the odds for victory were tiny.
But if Netanyahu and his advisors actually knew all along that Congress would not be able to block a presidential veto, their game seems far more cynical — throwing AIPAC into a battle it could not win, and putting the Jewish American community in the worst possible corner, forcing them to choose between a president most of them supported and the Israeli government. Not everybody handled the moment very well: Tablet published an editorial comparing the White House to white supremacists, for example. And all this – for what?
Playing the long game or short-sightedness?
One possible explanation is Netanyahu’s hope that a promised “compensation package” the administration offered Israel might grow as a result of the...Read More