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Netanyahu at AIPAC targets Iran, ignores other regional issues

WASHINGTON – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has addressed the 2012 AIPAC Policy Conference, focusing exclusively on Iran.

Given the events that have transpired over the past 10 months since Netanyahu last spoke at AIPAC – namely, a diplomatic standoff between Israel and the Palestinians which saw the latter bringing to the United Nations a resolution calling for Palestinian statehood; the siege of the Israeli Embassy in Cairo and the subsequent American involvement in securing the safe passage of Israeli diplomats; the ongoing onslaught in neighboring Syria that has resulted and is still resulting in a refugee crisis for Israel’s other neighbors – one might be forgiven for thinking that the Israeli prime minister might use his time at this year’s AIPAC Policy Conference podium to address these issues.  But speaking before some 13,000 American Jews and their allies, who claim to be concerned about Israel and the region, these topics did not even get an honorable mention.  Instead, Netanyahu chose to focus his entire speech on Israel’s perceived threat of Iran.

And the winner for best actor in a political drama is…
It was too be expected.  Even Netanyahu joked about the topic du jour.  And he was naturally at his best: charming, persuasive, or as one AIPAC-goer referred to his speech, “powerful, assertive, inspiring.”  But the depth, the honesty, the humility were all missing.  Instead, Netanyahu used the opportunity to shamelessly beat the war drum.  Onwards.  If only AIPAC had invited as a keynote speaker Iran’s Supreme leader, the Ayatollah Khamenei, who has staked his religious supremacy on vowing there’ll never be a nuclear-armed Iran, there might have actual been a genuine discussion.  Instead, anyone not fooled by Netanyahu’s spotlight dance would have recognized this to be a classic “wag the dog” moment.

Fortunately and aptly-timed, the political satire The Daily Show, with host Jon Stewart – himself an American Jew with a loyal following among liberals – aired a pre-recorded segment that included an interview with Riyad Mansour, the “Permanent Observer of Palestine” to the United Nations.  It was broadcast just minutes after Netanyahu’s speech on the cable channel Comedy Central (watch it here if you are unable to play the video):

Netanyahu may not believe in honorable mentions, but I do.  Thank you Jon Stewart for reminding Netanyahu and AIPACers that there is still a stateless Palestinian people.  And they’ll still be there even after you bomb Iran.

**** The full text of Netanyahu’s speech is available HERE.  Note the word “Syrian” is mentioned only once (and it is referenced in regard to Iran), and the word “Palestinian” appears zero times.   Even Obama, in his speech the day before, use the “P” word five times.

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    1. John Yorke

      If Iran has the potential to acquire its own nuclear arsenal and this can eventually be translated into actual, deliverable weaponry, then the US position would seem to be an unenviable one. If President Obama is to be taken at his word, he has either to destroy, disable or defeat this Iranian stockpile or become resigned to its existence, its deployment and the influence its presence will have on future events in the Middle East. Even if little Israel, with or without US support, were able to delay the initial production run for a period of time, the genie, having once escaped the bottle, will be less than eager to return from whence it came. Other genies of similar stripe have escaped in the past and, so far, not one has seen fit to shrink back inside their original abode.

      The only other option that might work is conjure up an even more powerful genie, a single entity that would perform all the services of the others combined and yet cost virtually nothing compared to that of the nuclear variety. Such a variety might then become as outdated as the battleship and the blunderbuss; a very welcome development if such a thing could be brought into being.

      The myriad mind of Man, it seems, can still retain the ultimate sanction where these matters are concerned. But, in a mind so vast and limitless, it can be difficult to track down and release this one particular genie. Of course, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible. There are always possibilities.


      “You can never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”
      — Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller (1895 – 1983)

      Reply to Comment
    2. JG

      One curious thing missing from Netanyahu’s speech (and much of the pro-war rhetoric I’ve been reading) is actually what Iran would blackmail us *for* once they had nuclear weapons. Money? Love? Kardashians?

      I have this hunch that top of their list would be to force their own resolution on the Palestinian issue, and thus earn the admiration of the Arab world. I can only guess. But it’s not like we have any Iran experts spelling this out in opinion pages.

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Once Iran has nuclear weapons, they will “blackmail” Israel into not attacking them. May the day arrive soon.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Dhalgren

      Does no one see that Iran has more reasons not to acquire nuclear weapons than to do so? I can see how nuclear latency might be advantageous, but actual nuclear armament? You would have to demonstrate that Iran is an irrational actor, somewhere near suicidal actually. Sparking a nuclear arms race in the Middle East benefits no one, least of all Iran.

      Of course, if we want to provoke Iran into doing something stupid and self-destructive we should absolutely continue to escalate sanctions and threaten military action. If we are interested in peace and security, however, there should be one option on the table right now and one only: negotiation.

      Of course, even a reasonable discussion on Iran should not distract from the need to find a just solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I applaud The Daily Show for reminding us of that. That it would come to a comedy show having to do that (at least in the US) says much about the journalistic failure of our news media.

      Reply to Comment
    5. – Obama does not want war against Iran (yet)
      – Netanjahu / Lieberman / Barak want a preemtive strike against the nuclear facilities of Iran
      – Netanyahu does NOT want a second presidency Obama
      – a war against Iran would bring multiple problems for Obama (economic risks, loss of lifes, costs of war, …)
      – result: a war against Iran – from the perspective of Netanyahu – might remove 2 problems at once…

      Reply to Comment
    6. Bill Pearlman

      What did you want him to do. Bow down to a hezbollah flag and beg forgiveness

      Reply to Comment
    7. ToivoS

      My read of the past two days is that Netanyahu left Washington in a much weaker position that when he arrived. For once he was out-flanked by Obama. His speech before AIPAC came across to me, I read it, not listened, as an almost hysterically defiant cry for attention.

      What is the reaction in Israel? Will he return again as a conquering hero? Or will he be politically wounded?

      Reply to Comment
    8. ToivoS

      My read of the past two days is that Netanyahu left Washington in a much weaker position that when he arrived. For once he was out-flanked by Obama. His speech before AIPAC came across to me (I read it, not listened to it) as an almost hysterically defiant cry for attention.

      What is the reaction in Israel? Will he return again as a conquering hero? Or will he be politically wounded?

      Reply to Comment
    9. delia

      He also mentions the holocaust 3 times and Auschwitz twice. These two words will soon be emptied of all meaning, just like the words antisemitism, terrorist, deligitimizer, nazi, and kapo.

      This is foolish.

      Reply to Comment
    10. ToivoS

      sorry for the double post. My first one did not seem to go through so I made a small change and sent it again.

      Reply to Comment
    11. John Yorke

      Is it a question of weeks, months or years before economic and diplomatic pressures begin to tell on Iran’s alleged resolve to join the nuclear club?
      Or will factors other than these makes their presence known well before then, ones that might give rise to much more ‘direct’ methods of dissuasion?

      The problem is that no one knows for sure where exactly matters stand at the moment. How far along are Iranian scientists in building, testing and deploying their undeclared weapons of mass destruction? Who is to be believed, what assessment looks the most plausible, will there still be time to counter such supposed developments and how might this best be done?

      There is just too much uncertainty surrounding the issue for any definitive answer to be given. And it is this very uncertainty that clouds the nature of whatever response should be forthcoming.
      Indeed, the whole picture has, right from the very start, been that of rumour, speculation and doubt. These feelings are an integral part of the normal human reaction whenever circumstances such as those long prevalent in the Middle East are encountered. The persistence of these and so many other fears are the real reason why no progress of any sort has been made in every decade past. There is no bypassing of what has happened, no reconciliation to be made because the situation renders any such closure impossible.

      It seems that, once again, we must all await the future with the same trepidation that has visited us on other such occasions. The cycle continues, the die is cast and not even the greatest of us commands the power to have it otherwise.

      Or do we?


      Reply to Comment
    12. If there is one lesson for any independent minded Middle Eastern nation from the US invasion of Iraq it’s that the best way to prevent the same happening to them is a nuclear bomb. Bush never bombed North Korea. But US imperialism and its proxy Israel must have a compliant and disarmed Iran, they cannot allow it to build the bomb. It’s not about Iran attacking Israel, its the opposite. Nuclear weapons would all but eliminate the likelihood of Israel or the US invading Iran or conducting surgical strikes against selected targets.

      Reply to Comment
    13. Piotr Berman

      It may be of interest to Israelis that apart from Israel, there exists at least two states of holocaust survivors. Armenia follows Israeli example, after a fashion. Proportionally, they occupy less territory, and all Azeris were somehow persuaded to move out, the country is basically an armed camp. Azeris will now get a big help from Israel, but Armenians have high ground and determination.

      A more curious case is that of Paraguay. Proportionally, Paraguayans lost more people than Jews or Armenian in a terrible war with Triple Aliance. (Hint to Israel: avoid a war with an alliance that contains two large countries, like Brasil, Turkey, Egypt and Iran.) How does Paraguay survive now? In the most undignified manner possible: it does not attack neighbors anymore. But it works.

      Reply to Comment
    14. skeptical

      Perhaps the folks who will be laughing when Israel attacks Iran are the Arab states who also do NOT like Iran… history runs long and deep in this part of the world. They will let USA and Israel do their “dirty work”: for them.

      Reply to Comment

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