Saturday, August 8, 2015

The Deal

HuffPost

Benjamin Netanyahu is laying siege to the Congress of the United States, not for the first time. He has thrown his voice and channeled his influence into the arena of American legislative politics, to abort the nuclear P5+1 settlement with Iran, which was signed on July 14 by the US, Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia. The Israeli strong man's latest intervention is in keeping with the rest of his political career. Netanyahu owes all his importance and his success to actions that have been purely destructive.

He was first elected in 1996 on the wave of Israeli settler chauvinism that followed the signing of the Oslo Accords. His rise came in the wake of the assassination of his opponent, a courageous defender of the accords, Yitzhak Rabin. A public memorandum detailing the strategy for Netanyahu as leader of Israel was written by the neoconservative war propagandist Richard Perle, along with a small committee of others. The strategy document, "A Clean Break," called for Israel to free itself from the tedious demands of diplomacy once and for all, curtail its efforts to negotiate with Palestinians toward the creation of a state, and give up the idea of joining a neighborhood of nations in the Middle East. With American help, instead, Israel could stand alone as the dominant power, a position it should never compromise by bargaining for peace. To achieve this end, three countries had to be undermined, subdivided, or destroyed: Iraq, Syria, and Iran.

So far, things have gone roughly according to plan. Iraq and Syria are out of the picture -- the latter with considerable satisfaction to the people around Netanyahu. But Iran has continued to pose a stumbling block; and as early as 2008, Barack Obama's interest in lowering the terrorist threat to the US by calming the violence of the region was perceived by Netanyahu as a threat to his plan for dominance. [..]

The defection to the Republican side by Chuck Schumer was predictable, but the terms in which he cast his decision tell us much about the man and the situation. It has been said that one can judge a politician's intent not only by the things he says but by the things he crucially omits. In Schumer's written defense of his vote with the war party, in a text of some 1,700 words apparently drafted by the senator himself, a word that never appears is "Israel." (The exception is the almost anonymous appearance of the country in a catalogue with five other countries said to have been direct or indirect victims of Iran). But depend on it, Israel was on Schumer's mind. He has often said, with an artless self-love, that his name in Hebrew, "shomer," means "guardian"; and he takes pride in the fact because he thinks of himself as the appointed guardian of Israel's interests in the US. How bizarre and again how unprecedented this is! Think of any other nation in the world. Imagine an Italian-American named Frank Consiglieri assuring his listeners that his name means "advocate" in Italian and he is supremely vigilant for the interests of Italy as a lawmaker in the US [..]

How many Americans know that the Iran deal is supported by the vast majority of Israel's defense and security establishment? The opinions of the security officials within Netanyahu's government are impossible to discern because they have been placed under gag order; but the suffrage of qualified judges in Israel, as also in Europe, Russia, China, and the IAEA, forms a strange contrast with the current alignments in America. "As unanimous as the politicians are in backing the prime minister," J.J. Goldberg recently wrote in Forward, "the generals and spymasters are nearly as unanimous in questioning him. Generals publicly backing Netanyahu can be counted on -- well -- one finger." Equally strange is the fact that security support for the deal is an open secret in the Israeli press, and in an American Jewish paper like Forward, but the evidence is subordinated to a point of near invisibility in the New York Times and other American outlets.