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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.


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    1. Danny

      The world may be getting sick and tired of the man who answers to the name “Bibi”, but are Israelis similarly tired of him? If only we could witness the crumpling up of both Romney and Netanyahu into a tight ball and tossed forever into the trash bin of history. After his latest gaffe (an inexcusable one), Romney is likely gone on November 6th. The question is – when will Israel be rid of its Romney?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Mitchell Cohen

      FWIW, America should only got to war with Iran if it serves HER interests. I say this as a “right of center” Israeli. That being said, as I have already explained on another thread, Netanyahu will have about as much an influence on the American elections as lighting a match is likely to warm up a room with no heat in the winter (I won’t repeat the reasons here)….

      Reply to Comment
    3. Jack

      I think one should not exaggerate this division between Obama and Netanyahu.
      Later this month we will see US abstaining from voting in the General Assembly about a palestinian state, maybe Obama will speak and as usual recognize the strong ties between Israel and the US.

      Reply to Comment
      • You’ve gotta be U.S. citizen to be a donor, don’tcha? 😉

        Reply to Comment
    4. Denis Charles-Gray

      Finally the tail has stopped wagging the dog.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Lauren

      We created the monster with out own policies. With all the financial and military support we give Israel, we always get spit on. I’ve seen this for years. I say no more money from us until Israel starts appreciating our sacrifice.
      Nutty yahoo is a spoiled brat and a war criminal. Enough of this crap already

      Reply to Comment
    6. Mitchell Cohen


      Actually I think America should stop giving financial aid to Israel AND everyone else and concentrate inward a bit. I would be tickled pink if America put the $ towards health care for all of her citizens and other domestic destinations….

      Reply to Comment
      • Mareli

        I agree that the $3+ billion the US gives to Israel every year would be better spent at home. The same goes for the money given to Pakistan, which only seems to make its people hate Americans more. I will be glad when Bibi follows his father.

        Reply to Comment
        • Mitchell Cohen

          ….and to Egypt and to Jordan and to all the other countries America gives $ to. And I say this as an Israeli who is hardly “left wing”….

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    7. weindeb

      BDS full and complete and continuous until…, or that not occurring or if ineffective, break off diplomatic relations with Israel. Ahmadinejad may be a malevolent moron, but is Bibi far behind?

      Reply to Comment
    8. Bluegrass Picker of Afula

      >> BDS full and complete and continuous until

      …I agree. Total economic isolation of countries which don’t attempt to defend US diplomats.

      Note: Libyans officers died trying to protect the US consulate in Benghazi. I have no quarrels with the Libyan people.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Richard Witty

      For Netanyahu to be voted out of office three things need to happen.

      1. Attractive alternatives
      2. Effective campaign, including philosophical and topical
      3. Let Netanyahu be Netanyahu and shoot himself and party and worldview in the foot

      Reply to Comment
    10. Sowhat

      Comment deleted and user banned from commenting here – for personal comments that have no relevance to the post.

      Reply to Comment
    11. ash

      It is amazing that Obama has a half brother living in a dirt hut and the media never talks about it. If it was Romney it would be on every front page. Stop listening to Msnbc or any media outlet and Educate yourselves by researching the facts. The media should have a responsibility to not be bias and only give the true facts as they unravel. So at least the American people can truely decide for themselves.

      Reply to Comment
    12. delia ruhe

      I don’t know if pinpointing one event as the tipping point makes any sense, as it’s probably a chain of events that has got several surprising people critical of Bibi. But for me, it was his shameful performance before Congress that turned them into a bunch of trained seals. They sprang to their feet and applauded several statements which, if examined closely, would have got those approving Congresspeople in deep trouble several years ago. No president that I know of has been quite so insulted by members of Congress as Obama was on that day.

      Reply to Comment